MR. CHAIRMAN: Good afternoon. I would like to reconvene the Subcommittee on Supply for Tuesday, April 18th. We do have six members present in the room and one in the coffee shop. I will be counting the minister as a member of quorum because he is a member of the House and sitting presently in Supply; six are required and I count six here presently. We are reconvening the debate on Resolution No. E11, The Department of Fisheries for a budget of $5,716,000. We adjourned yesterday with the NDP caucus asking questions. You have 37 minutes remaining in your time. You may now begin, please.
The honourable member for Hants East.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Chairman, I think I mentioned to the minister yesterday concerns regarding bycatch and the fact that some fishermen feel the market actually drives too much the agenda of what they catch. There is something else, and maybe the minister knows better, or the deputy can correct me if I am wrong, but I believe in the case of some species, say the larger the fish, the more per pound you get. So let's say cod above a certain size you might get 75 cents a pound, but smaller, you get 50 cents a pound, so when fishermen bring in smaller fish, they are just thrown back overboard. Do you know if that is actually the case? I think it is called shagging.
HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Chairman, I thank the honourable member for his question. Again, as we have spent the question period yesterday entirely in federal jurisdiction, certainly we can contact the federal minister and have the information relayed to the honourable member.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I guess what you are saying, Mr. Minister, is that you don't know.
MR. FAGE: Again, the honourable member, as usual, draws erroneous conclusions to immaterial facts. The issue for debate today is the provincial Fisheries budget. Federal regulation on bycatch, biomass, is solely the jurisdiction and regulation of the federal Fisheries, and the answer, which I do know, is we will supply you with that regulation requested from the federal minister.
The price of fish is determined by contract or by negotiation between fish buyers, fish companies and the fishermen themselves across this great country. As the honourable member, hopefully, would know, price is determined by what the market place will bear. Certainly value-added, which we keenly support here in Nova Scotia and which is our jurisdiction once it comes ashore, we encourage all processors, suppliers, fish buyers and handlers to process as much groundfish here in Nova Scotia to ensure that as many as possible value-added jobs accrue here in the province. For the honourable member's information and knowledge, I would relay to the honourable member that we have growth markets in smoked fish. We have a number of companies who are value adding their salmon. It is some of the best in North America.
I certainly would encourage the honourable member, at his first opportunity at a Nova Scotia restaurant in Halifax, to sample and try smoked salmon. I think he would find it appetizing and to his strong desire to consume and to advocate to other Nova Scotians that this would be a huge opportunity for more growth and jobs. Also, when we look at scallops and shellfish species, those value-added opportunities come to the fore. We see various ways it is marketed across Nova Scotia, from fresh to packed and prepared so it is table-ready with the minimum amount of heating or what the consumer has to do to it.
Also, in the export field, we have seen major growth. I give the example of sea urchin, where we have over 100 jobs in Nova Scotia now processing sea urchin, which go directly, in most cases, to the Japanese market, and much of that fresh. Again, a great opportunity to put jobs here in rural Nova Scotia. I look at alternative species such as Jonah crab and rock crab, where we have been able, with the support of the department and the leadership and desire of the industry, to see more jobs. There are jobs totalling in the hundreds, where a couple of years ago were not there, but are now processing rock and Jonah crab. Certainly that particular species is being well received and appreciated by consumers, not only here in Canada and the United States, but virtually worldwide. We have a number of firms across this province that are doing such things as fish oil or value-added liquid fish that allow consumers, and obviously those consumers in other jurisdictions around the world, an opportunity to consume Nova Scotia's fish, as well.
I think the key thing here, Mr. Chairman, is that it is employing Nova Scotians in rural communities around the coast of the entire Province of Nova Scotia. Those are things that this provincial government has jurisdiction over and things which we care very deeply about; shepherd and foster and ensure those type of growth opportunities for real jobs for real Nova Scotians continue. Again, I would remind the honourable member that the allocation of the
resource, which is actual quotas and TPQs, are 100 per cent federal jurisdiction and the allocation of who will catch them in what water, what zone, by what means, how large the net, whether it is a seine or a trap, whether it is a trawl, whatever the dimension of the boat is, how far off shore, what zone it is in Nova Scotia. Again I would remind the member those are federal regulations and jurisdictions. Certainly, we would, at any time, be prepared to help the member get some of those regulations and guidelines from the federal government.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Minister, I don't think I should apologize because you have gone on at quite a length about value-added and the value of the fishery to the province. Even in your own speech on Page 7, you state "lobby for Nova Scotia interest i.e. higher cod groundfish quota with Ottawa and won." I am assuming in regard to things that are federal jurisdiction, you recognize yourself and your department as a voice.
On Page 15 under 8 B) Action, "working with DFO to resolve technical and legal aspects." On the bottom of the page in your conclusion, "The Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture is a vital partner in boosting Nova Scotia's commercial fishery, aquaculture, and sportfishing industries." So even in your own speech it would seem to me that you definitely feel you have a role to play with the federal government. I realize you or your department cannot set those regulations. They are federal regulations as far as quotas and so on, but I certainly am hoping that when fishermen or other MLAs or anybody in the province raises concerns to you, that you will be a voice. Your speech seems to indicate you want to do that, and actually that you are doing that. You even mention it with regard to the higher cod groundfish quota, so if you had any role to play in that higher quota, then I congratulate you for that.
I certainly feel these things I mentioned, if it is the case that a larger cod fish gets more per pound than a smaller one, then we would assume if all cod fish could only be priced on a per pound basis, not the size of the fish, then the small ones aren't going to be caught and thrown back. If you have 75 cents a pound for cod, period, then you take them all, big and small. I would see this may have an impact on the ability of the resource to rebound. If we are going to catch fish and kill them and throw them overboard, then I don't see that as sustainable or helping the industry to be sustainable. Those are the reasons I bring those things to you.
I recognize you as a voice for Nova Scotia. In the case of a province that is nearly an island, I think we both can understand what that means to rural Nova Scotia communities. It is not that I can't find something else to harp about. It is just that I think in your role, you are probably one of the best voices we have in the province. I certainly can understand what federal jurisdiction is, but I would like to think that you will be talking to federal people and explaining some of these things that people recognize as problems and that there might be
some movement, whether it is in a quick way or a slow way for some change, if this is what people in the industry think are things that are causing disadvantage.
I would like to know where the province is in regard to negotiations with the Aboriginal community on fisheries issues as a result of the Marshall decision last September, and also as a result of the clarification of the Marshall decision that came, I think, in December. I know the Millbrook Band has signed an agreement for a year. I don't think Indian Brook, which is a reserve in my constituency, I don't think there has been any agreement signed with them. Can you tell me what the role is for your department regarding this issue, and how that is going?
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the honourable member's glowing remarks in regard to our department and myself in an advocacy role with the federal government. We do attempt to do our best to bring those issues that fishermen and the industry raise to the forefront with the federal government in dealing with areas of their jurisdiction. In no way, as the member alluded that he harps, do I find the honourable member a harper. He raises legitimate concerns that all members of the fishing community and all members of Nova Scotia are concerned about.
You concluded by asking questions about the Marshall situation. The September 17th Supreme Court ruling, the original ruling of the Marshall case, caught the eye and concern of not only the commercial fishery, the sports fishery, but most Nova Scotians, Native and non-Native. There was an early period of great turmoil which ended in demonstrations and concern and frustration from both communities. That concern was echoed because there was, in my view, a lack of clarity, and people wanted to know exactly where they stood and what their understanding was.
Through that entire period the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and the Nova Scotia Government and the minister remained strong and concrete through it all, even culminating on the front page of the provincial paper, The Chronicle-Herald, as the Department of Fisheries and its view, on behalf of the province, that one fishery, one management plan, one conservation plan, and that peace on the water and in our communities was the overguiding principle through these negotiations. Certainly the clarification on November 17th was of great help in putting some parameters on what the Marshall ruling really meant to fishing here in Nova Scotia.
As the honourable member knows, there are 34 Native bands involved in that particular treaty of 1756. Hunting, gathering, and fishing were those rights that were conferred, but they had to be integrated in a reasonable manner into the commercial fishery, and that the federal minister still had the overriding right to main conservation and forest management plans. From that time, it has evolved to the point where there are temporary agreements being signed, as we speak, with the federal government between Mi'kmaq nation bands here in Nova Scotia. It is my understanding that out of the 34 in Atlantic Canada,
currently there is somewhere between 12 and 20 who have signed in principle or about to sign, and negotiations continue with the other bands.
I might add that these agreements are agreements without prejudice. They are one-year temporary agreements, and that the longer-term agreements are yet to be negotiated into the future. As a province, on those principles I earlier stated, we lobbied hard. There needed to be more dollars allocated to ensure peace, to ensure conservation, and to that light, the federal government, in their recent budget, announced another $13 million, which was gratifying to see.
Also in discussions with the federal minister and his officials last fall and early winter, we were determined that if the fishery was to be integrated, it had to be one fishing group under one management plan, and one set of conservation and enforcement rules. That appears to be well under way, as well as the technical and teaching part are there, which we are hopeful the peers will be one group. The federal minister has announced his intention that it will be.
Another major factor that is extremely important as this moves forward is that, as many have said in this world, patience is a virtue. These agreements, with the incorporation of all species, not only lobster but every other species that can be commercially fished, ultimately, at the end of the day, have to be involved in this. All communities have to be involved in this. In reality, we have done our utmost in regard to the federal government to ensure that the commercial fishery, which is the largest in Canada with over $1 billion worth of output, remains stable. Regarding the commercial fisheries interests, we take great effort in meeting with them and ensuring that their views are passed on to the federal minister so they are taken into context.
Here on the provincial front, we deal with the issue, it is a large issue, we deal with it with combined efforts of the Department of Fisheries. We have a working group comprised of the Department of Fisheries officials, Aboriginal Affairs, Justice, Agriculture, as well as Natural Resources. All those areas and ministries are impacted on the Marshall ruling. To be quite frank about it, my viewpoint is it is going to take quite a number of years to come to any permanent resolve on the Marshall ruling. It is going to require cool heads and the guiding principles to ensure we have peace on the water and peace in our communities here in Nova Scotia, and to ensure we have one management plan, one conservation plan. It is a huge issue, it is one that needs all people who are involved in politics and local communities to take a rational view and be careful not to incite situations that we don't have to be accountable for in the future.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Minister, in light of your last comments, do we have a plan to prevent friction, as much as possible? Is there any avenue or any way that the Nova Scotia Government, on its own, has a strategy around the possibility of confrontation that might occur, outside the realm of the federal government?
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, the entire issue of security of negotiation should be separated. Security is largely an issue for the RCMP, which is federal. When there are large gatherings of people, whether it is Native or non-Native, they and civic police forces do those types of things. I think the real issue that you are asking me is, are we being proactive in any way in negotiations in trying to head off those sanctions and see if we can come to agreements and settlements that are acceptable to all parties without having to go to Supreme Court trials or lengthy dialogue.
Certainly in realms to federal jurisdiction or shared jurisdiction, like the fishery, there are many parties involved. In solely provincial jurisdiction, such as DNR, obviously we have put the offer out there, let's talk, we are willing to negotiate, because that is solely a provincial jurisdiction. Fisheries is one of those jurisdictions that have both the federal component and the provincial component. We certainly attempt to work as closely as we can on such a serious issue with the federal government so we are in a situation where we have harmony within the industry and negotiations.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I was wondering whether or not there is any notion of having people who are specialists in conflict resolution, or something to that effect, trying to avoid something where you would not want the RCMP to be there but to try to head off confrontation between communities, sit down now and have a dialogue between the Native and the non-Native communities even though the federal government may not have regulations with a particular band, but that there is some kind of communication between the two communities so when the season comes, people know exactly what is going to happen here even though there may not be anything in place with the federal government.
MR. FAGE: Certainly the situation is one where negotiation is going on instead of confrontation, at this point. That is where we hope to see it continue, and would strongly direct everything toward that avenue of negotiation, not confrontation. I know we have included this issue and invite, as of last fall, the Native community to partake in the Ministers' Conference in Truro. We, at every turn, keep the dialogue open between the Native community, the commercial fishery and the non-Native community.
To that end, we have the task force, where we have aligned that committee between the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Justice, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the Department of Fisheries, and the Department of Agriculture, to ensure that the interests of all those communities, and the Native community as well being represented there, have a climate and an area where they can deal in consensus with one group putting forward the position, rather than half a dozen groups at once confronting the Native community or the non-Native community. I think those are the types of things we can do to harbour harmony in negotiation, and take away and help diffuse from fears, which grow in isolation, and in dialogue, they don't.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I am glad to hear that. I guess I would like to know what your slant is on how that is going.
MR. FAGE: As a representative and Minister for the Department of Fisheries, and a representative for the government in that regard, I feel that we are indeed making progress. I think we have done very well to go through a period of frustration, unrest and with communities not knowing what the rules are or where the situation stood, how the ruling would be implemented. We have moved from September 17th to mid-April, and we are still in a peaceful negotiation with implementation in the lobster fishery - no other fishery obviously - occurring with licences being offered up by commercial fishermen in that regard, to be purchased by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the federal Department of Fisheries so Native fishermen can fish. The training will be coordinated, there are funds available for that to aid in the training and experience.
As a province, we have offered our facilities through the Nova Scotia Fisheries School. We would be willing to ensure occupational health and safety, proper experience and training in technique for that type of fishery, and that knowledge can be gained and training happen with the Native community. We certainly feel we have a huge way to go, but each one of those miles starts with the first step, and I would say we have got in quite a number of steps down the road, getting in our first eight months without a major confrontation, and a better understanding from a whole host of communities, Native and non-Native, of the other groups' positions and how we can protect the conservation of the fishery and move it forward.
We have a huge way to go, honourable member, but we have a number of steps in now, and those steps, although very tense at some points, as you well remember, last fall in various parts of the province, they are moving forward.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I am glad to hear that. In a previous life, prior to doing this, I was a high school teacher and a number of my students were Mi'kmaq. I really liked the people from that community, and I am concerned about what the future holds for some of these students that I had. When I was teaching, I even used to question what I was doing, was it for the best benefit and what options were we delivering. I would like to think that the Marshall decision will turn out to be a positive thing for the Native community, and actually from what I hear, I think a lot of the non-Native communities don't necessarily see it as a negative, they see it as something that is workable. If we look at just sheer numbers in the Native community, it won't have a major impact, especially in the case of a regulated fishery.
I am wondering if the minister can answer some questions regarding Scotia Rainbow. My question has two parts. How much money has the province put into Scotia Rainbow, and how much money has this particular administration put into Scotia Rainbow?
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, in regard to Scotia Rainbow, because they are not operational figures, I don't have the exact numbers with me, but I will supply them to you. There are two components to it, the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries has supplied, through their lending agency, some dollars. Also, the Department of Economic Development has supplied dollars as well. In that regard, the total financing from the province to date is $2.9 million, from Economic Development, plus a $2 million loan guarantee, and $1.3 million loan from the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Could you say that again?
MR. FAGE: They are all from the province: $2.9 million from Economic Development, a $2 million loan guarantee from the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture's Loan Board, and a $1.3 million loan from that same board. I apologize, I didn't think we had the information with us, but we were able to locate it for you.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I am wondering about, in specific terms, the basis on which you loaned the money. I am of the understanding that Scotia Rainbow has had a contract with Japanese interests, so I am just wondering if you have a copy of that contract or have you seen any document?
MR. FAGE: The majority of the financing was put in place in previous years. I can say to you the strength of the contract, where the additional borrowing occurred last fall, was based on a $20 million letter of intent or guarantee from the Japanese buyer in regard to their product.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you. I want to move to the non-traditional fishery for a minute. You mentioned sea urchins and crab and something else, I can't make out my own writing. In your notes, if I am not mistaken, does $20 million sound right for that section of the industry?
MR. FAGE: It is $22 million.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: It would certainly take some time to get to that amount. How long has that sector been functional?
MR. FAGE: The industry, for five to six years, was extremely small. The focusing on it began three years ago, and I believe, I can be corrected, the size of the industry was between $3 million and $4 million at that time. The emphasis and targetting of the department with the industry began three years ago, in 1996. Last year's, 1999, $22 million was the value of that industry.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: When it says crab, are we talking snow crab or are we talking about another species?
MR. FAGE: We are talking alternative species here, this would be rock crab and Jonah crab. You are aware of those ones that tickle your feet sometimes, when you go to the beach down off Noel Shore.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: We have enough mud there, I don't remember seeing many crab.
MR. FAGE: Those are the ones that would be there. Other species involved there are sea urchin, for the export market, and trap shrimp, that is another technique. A trap has been developed to catch shrimp, so that would be included in that alternative species, the attraction of shrimp into those traps.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I am trying to remember in recent news broadcasts around the snow crab, if it was a reduction in the quota in Newfoundland or if it was a reduction in the quota in Nova Scotia. Can you tell me which one that was?
MR. FAGE: Again, it is an allocation of federal quota, but my understanding is there is a drastic reduction in snow crab allocation for the Newfoundland fleet in the Newfoundland market; there was no reduction, to my knowledge in Nova Scotia waters, a significant increase on the Eastern Shore. Obviously we are working with the federal government for some experimental fisheries in other zones off of Nova Scotia, on the offshore.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I know your deputy minister has some background on the biological side of the fishery and maybe oceanography. I am wondering if you are aware of what the science tells us, as far as breeding habits, life cycles, et cetera, of some of these species - I am thinking more in particular of the snow crab - if we know enough to make any predictions regarding those quotas. I know the federal government must have done it based on something.
MR. FAGE: There is a large storage of knowledge and experience involved with the snow crab. Like other species, it goes through cycles. Certainly the biomass is measured by the scientific community and DFO. In depth, certainly the person who deals with it in my department could speak with you at some point, if you would like to call and we will make the arrangements. They will go through the exact procedure for determining the biomass and age and those types of things, and zones.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I would enjoy that. I am going to try to get one more question in, if I can before my time goes. I thought yesterday you had mentioned a Habitat Enhancement Program. Did you?
MR. FAGE: I think what the honourable member is referring to is in-land fisheries stream enhancement, which would be drives by individuals and private interests and other people to help ensure that waterways are kept clear. The odd project has hinged upon fish
density, that would be species selection that would look at the state or quality the river quality or habitat is involved in. Majorly, the restocking program is the type of funds that the department allocates money to. By and large, the vast majority of the money that was involved there goes to the restocking program. Actually, it is close to 500 lakes and streams that the Province of Nova Scotia stocks every year with trout.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: That program wouldn't be involved with retaining banks or things like that?
MR. FAGE: That particular program you are referring to was one that was conducted under the Department of the Environment. It was called the Stream Bank Protection Program, and it was eliminated, I believe, two years ago.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I think you are right. I tried to get funding to fix a stream in my riding. When I thought I heard you mention this, I thought it was maybe another angle.
MR. FAGE: I wish it was possible, but it is not there.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I will choke off for now, and let the Liberals have a go. I will come back later.
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the honourable minister for his opening remarks. I would like to focus and start from inside the department and perhaps work out into the policy aspect later on.
On Page 12.2, I notice the estimate for the upcoming year is 96 funded staff. That is pretty much in line with what has been funded for the last number of budgets. Does that include the total number of employees who received less than $25,000?
MR. FAGE: Yes, that does include that figure.
MR. MACKINNON: If that is the case, I am a little perplexed. I am going to shift over to Page 69 in the Supplement to the Public Accounts. Perhaps your staff can help me on this one. I notice, listed under Salaries, there are a total of 82 individuals who are receiving in excess of that amount, i.e. over $25,000 and then we have listed $1.1 million for salaries under $25,000. I made the assumption that even if we were talking $25,000 we would be talking an additional 46 employees. That would add up to 128 total employees, so if that amount was less than $25,000, every dollar less than that would increase the total number of individuals. Perhaps if you, Mr. Minister, or your staff could reconcile the difference.
MR. FAGE: The two amounts are on two different budgetary years, I think is the most important thing to note. Certainly, the one at the rear of the book is the budgetary year previous to the one on Page 62. If the detail of that is required, I can't see that we can't provide that.
MR. MACKINNON: Did you say Page 62?
MR. FAGE: Page 69, excuse me.
MR. MACKINNON: That is perhaps where I am off the rails here because both amounts are listed on Page 69. You are saying one figure is for the fiscal year ending and the other figure is for the previous fiscal year?
MR. FAGE: That's correct.
MR. MACKINNON: Why would they both be listed for one fiscal year then?
MR. FAGE: The first number, the $1.1 million on Page 69 is dealing with the budgetary year of 1998-99. The estimates are dealing with the budgetary year 2000-01.
MR. MACKINNON: I appreciate that, but listed on the same Page 69, is a list of these 84 individuals who receive in excess of $25,000, so wouldn't they be for the same fiscal year, 1998-99?
MR. FAGE: Yes.
MR. MACKINNON: So indeed, we have 128 employees then. I guess I am trying to find out if we have x number of individuals receiving less than $25,000. Let's say if they were all receiving an average of $20,000, the total number of individuals receiving less than that would be certainly a lot higher than if you had them all at $25,000. How many individuals are we talking about, I guess, in simple terms?
MR. FAGE: On consultation, again on Page 69 we are dealing with the budgetary year of 1998-99 of the exact record of employment. There are 100 FTEs and those equivalents are based on the casuals who would have been contracted to teach one course at the fisheries school, terms and all permanent employees of the Department of Fisheries who are making less than $25,000 to make up that total.
MR. MACKINNON: We have the 82 employees in excess of $25,000 listed on Page 69, all the names and the amounts that they received, plus we have approximately 100 more which include the difference of the full-time employees who are listed on Page 12.2, bringing
it up to 96. So there would be an additional 14 full-time that are making less than $25,000 and then some seasonal employees?
MR. FAGE: Yes, they certainly would be made up of seasonal employees, again, casuals, there would be casuals in that total and I would give an example. A wide variety of individuals are hired at the training programs, at the Fisheries School which is mobile throughout the province, so if an individual is hired, let's say for an Occupational Health and Safety course, they may have worked three days . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, maybe I am not asking . . .
MR. FAGE: They are equivalents and they are lumped under $20,000, but there could be a lot of people, it is done in equivalents. It could have been 400 people made that number up. What it is, is equivalents so you end up with equivalency, not an exact number of people.
MR. MACKINNON: I realize that. You could probably have three part-timers whether it be for a day or three weeks or a month, adding up to make the equivalent of one full time for there, but do we have a number, can we quantify the total number of individuals that are involved under that figure of $1.15 million? Is it the 100 that you refer to?
MR. FAGE: There are 100 equivalents, but . . .
MR. MACKINNON: I guess I am trying to get a sense of how many people really worked for the Department of Fisheries last year.
MR. FAGE: I guess in that budgetary year, what you end up with is, there are 100 equivalents there, honourable member, but those 100 equivalents could be made up, we would have to go back and check the records to see how many contract employees. It could be anywhere from 140 (Interruption) We will supply the information, but it could be a vast number under there.
MR. MACKINNON: Just to be clear, both these figures are referenced to the same year on Page 69?
MR. FAGE: Yes.
MR. MACKINNON: Going on to the next page, Page 70, on the right hand column about halfway down for the Department of Human Resources, there is a cost there of $33,113.52. Would that be for a funded staff person?
MR. FAGE: My understanding is that those are payments made to the Department of Human Resources for training supplied to the Department of Fisheries.
MR. MACKINNON: What type of training?
MR. FAGE: The exact heading that it is under in which it concurs with the information just supplied is that it is staff training and development for department employees, supplied by the Department of Human Resources.
MR. MACKINNON: I am not going too fast am I? If I appear to be jumping too fast, just let me know. Being a numbers person, that is usually why I just kind of skip through numbers. Two columns down, I noticed the Department of Transportation and Public Works, there is a little over $250,000 paid out to the Department of Transportation and Public Works. What would that be for?
MR. FAGE: The exact purpose of that is spending for economic diversification agreement to repair facilities at the Nova Scotia Fisheries School and also the Fraser Mills Hatchery, also insurance payments and to instal ceramic tile to the fish training pool. Those major expenditures, the first one being the school and the Fraser Mills were $193,830 and the second one, the insurance payment was $9,356 and installing the ceramic tile at the fish training pool is $22,050. That money came through the Economic Diversification Agreement to do those repairs.
MR. MACKINNON: That's not a swimming pool they are in, is it?
MR. FAGE: It is the one that they do training with marine emergencies; that would be suits, diving bells, safety, davits, all those types of things.
MR. MACKINNON: Where is it located?
MR. FAGE: It is located in Pictou, Nova Scotia and it also has a mobile component out of Pictou that would go to any community in Nova Scotia and put on any training related to fisheries or oceans or water safety, occupational, boat navigation, harbour master, practically any of those courses you can think of.
MR. MACKINNON: It is like the marine OH&S.
MR. FAGE: Exactly. This is the one under the new arrangement that will be transferred from Fisheries and realigned with the Nova Scotia Community College.
MR. MACKINNON: I notice there is an expenditure to a number of universities, one just above that, to Dalhousie University for $61,516.46.
MR. FAGE: That particular amount of money was project funding and it was technology advisory services and related research to the boat-building industry. I guess if I can get it properly, the buzzword there, that CMVDR is the Centre for Marine Vessel Design
Research at Dalhousie University. That would be connected with opportunities in boat-building that in this year been approved for $1.5 million in operating finance to promote and grow the boat-building industry in Nova Scotia. It offers large potential for employment for trained professionals here in Nova Scotia. Currently there are several hundred people involved in about 16 or 17 shipyards and this would be helping in design so they can take a larger role in the North American market. There are half a million boats purchased in North America per year and it is a huge opportunity for Nova Scotia boatbuilders. The hull and the design here is the most popular one in North America and this would be in conjunction with the effort to develop that market more extensively.
MR. MACKINNON: I understood in your opening remarks, you made reference to the export of boats that are built in Nova Scotia. Is that a very big industry? How many were exported last year? Is there a dollar value on that? Is that a long-term positive initiative? That's okay, I can take that on notice.
MR. FAGE: Last year boat-building had a value of $10 million to the Nova Scotia economy, the sales of vessels built here and there are approximately 200 jobs involved in that trade. We see currently a number of yards that are shipping mainly hulls, we would like to see, and certainly to the advantage of all craftsmen in the province to see those finished boats going instead of hulls. It is certainly to the advantage of those builders and to the Province of Nova Scotia to have it a Nova Scotia boat instead of us building the hulls and the American manufacturer doing the labour-intensive part and value added and stamping Spring Spook or whatever you would like to see on the outside of that boat and selling it as an American product.
MR. MACKINNON: Are we exporting any boats that are built?
MR. FAGE: Currently right now we are preparing with the industry an opportunity to have three completed boats in the Annapolis Boat Show, which is the largest marine show in the world to feature those Nova Scotia-designed boats. I can undertake to give you an exact number of ones that have been exported, but I quite honestly couldn't give you the exact number right now.
MR. MACKINNON: I guess I wanted to get a sense as to whether we were successful in exporting the boats that were completely built here in Nova Scotia.
MR. FAGE: Yes, currently we are exporting boats and hulls.
MR. MACKINNON: I noticed - just a sidebar on this - there is nothing in your calculations here for the Y2K. I am assuming that issue has been dealt with and signed off from last year's budget?
MR. FAGE: Yes, certainly the 1999-2000 budget that we will review next year will have those allotments in it.
MR. MACKINNON: I guess the government that was in charge then must have been right on top of things, that is the only thing I can conclude there.
MR. FAGE: Either that or they left it to the final year.
MR. MACKINNON: How many vehicles are owned by the Department of Fisheries?
MR. FAGE: I can get you the exact number but staff tells me there is between 8 and 10 vehicles, the majority of those are the large, truck type for transporting fish and we do have some passenger service vehicles related to the school.
MR. MACKINNON: I presume that they are acquired by tender?
MR. FAGE: Yes, they are.
MR. MACKINNON: I was going to follow along with some of the questions that my colleague from the NDP caucus made reference to, but the first five questions that he asked, they were all referenced as to being federal responsibilities, so I am not going to follow that line of thought at all because I was getting a little discouraged as to what the department was doing, but I know there is more to it than that.
I noticed that the Net Program Expenses for Administration within the department increased by about $108,000. Could the minister and his staff give me some indication as to what that entails.
MR. FAGE: The honourable member is indeed right, overall Administration did increase. It increased by $97,000 and that is in regard to our obligation to the new mobile trunk radio system, there is now $97,000 into that particular allotment in the budget which is our commitment and our responsibility with the new mobile trunk radio system here in the province. I would also like to add though the real net change was only $40,000 because we eliminated a position of an executive assistant from that minister's office at the same time. So, net change is $40,000; trunk radio increased that particular area of the budget by $97,000 and then the reduction of one EA position, we eliminated the EA position.
MR. MACKINNON: Is that because of the merging of the departments?
MR. FAGE: It was twofold - merging the departments and the same minister responsible for the two departments.
MR. MACKINNON: I notice that there is an increase of $70,000 in your Fisheries Inspection Program; perhaps the minister would be kind enough to indicate what that increase was for.
MR. FAGE: I thank the honourable member for his question. Again, I just want to be absolutely certain in replying. What the member has asked, it is certainly true, that is a net figure. What has happened in that particular division, we made a commitment in the blue book during the last election and felt there was a strong need for more enforcement, so that particular budget was increased by $125,000 to meet that commitment in the blue book for increased enforcement in the province of Nova Scotia to help combat the illegal fishing and the sale of illegal fish products throughout the province. We also had a reduction of $68,000 inside that budget to give more clarity to it. Those reductions relate to onshore facilities and the processing section of our department.
MR. MACKINNON: So am I to understand that the net increase is approximately between $60,000 and $70,000?
MR. FAGE: Exactly.
MR. MACKINNON: I guess I am trying to get my head around the fact that if we are trying to increase enforcement, you really wouldn't hire too many people for $70,000; one, maybe two?
MR. FAGE: Again, the allotment within that budget for enforcement is $125,000.
MR. MACKINNON: The onshore inspection has been reduced. Did I understand you to say that?
MR. FAGE: The other two are in regard to facility. The $125,000 is the increase in enforcement.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, so how many new enforcement officers are we hiring? That is what I need to know.
MR. FAGE: The proposal is that we would be hiring two new enforcement officers.
MR. MACKINNON: The $68,000 or the $74,000 that is being eliminated from the inland fisheries expenditures section here, where does that money go? Is it diverted to another issue? Or is that part and parcel of the enforcement?
MR. FAGE: You are referring to the $68,000 in that particular category we are still talking about. The $68,000 was cut due to our commitment in program review to meet our
budgetary targets. It was cut from within that technology, and inspection service from the technology side. It involved onshore facilities as well as the processing quota of that shop.
MR. MACKINNON: Looking at the aquaculture section, I notice there is a reduction in your spending on aquaculture by approximately $183,000. I am curious as to why the reduction when there is so much emphasis put on aquaculture, especially now when we are trying to focus on under-utilized species. I think the minister would readily agree, over the last number of years, not only here in Nova Scotia, but a lot of the Atlantic Provinces have increased their emphasis on aquaculture.
MR. FAGE: Again, it is one where I want to make sure I had the correct details, so I was just going over my numbers. There has been a decrease of $183,000 in that particular one. That one has a number of components to it. One-half full-time equivalents associated with the lab and part-time work have been eliminated to meet budget constraints, plus one teaching position was transferred to the Department of Agriculture through the Nova Scotia Agriculture College. Aquaculture is offered at the Nova Scotia Agriculture College. The instructor was a Department of Fisheries employee. That employee is being transferred to the Department of Agriculture, and will be a staff person there. The other component that offsets that decrease is increased cost recovery or increase in fees. We will be anticipating increased fees for aquaculture applications generating an extra $80,000 this year.
MR. MACKINNON: What is the fee for an aquaculture fee?
MR. FAGE: There is a whole list of them, depending on whether you are processing an application, whether you are asking for a renewal. I can supply you with the whole list of fees, that would be the easiest. There is a whole number of them.
MR. MACKINNON: Sure, that is fine. I am just trying to get a sense of the percentage of increase? Is it 5 per cent, 10 per cent, in order to come up with this additional $40,000 or $80,000 that you refer to? Is it 20 per cent; 30 per cent; that is my final offer?
MR. FAGE: Again, just ensuring we are 100 per cent accurate. Last year from increases in fees for aquaculture licence application fees, it brought into the department $10,000. This year we will increase that in this budget to bring in $80,000.
MR. MACKINNON: That is an 800 per cent increase.
MR. FAGE: Exactly.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Could I ask that the schedule of those fees be circulated to all three caucuses for the information that has been requested?
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, that would not be a problem at all. I would like to add that we feel this is reasonable, prudent, and sensible. The people benefitting from an aquaculture lease or operation, in many cases if they are filing for leases, have the opportunity to receive, either from transferring a lease from another company or working the lease themselves, significant opportunity to economic return. It shouldn't be a burden to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia if someone wishes to hang on to and apply for six sites for an aquaculture lease in the hope of future development. We see this as a prudent way to readjust the real cost of what it costs to process those applications, do that kind of work, because the person who benefits from those fees is the one that owns the site or has the lease.
MR. MACKINNON: We are still dealing with a net loss, as I look at it, of approximately $100,000 out of the aquaculture revenue side. We have a $183,000 reduction and then we recover $80,000. That is a difference of $100,000.
MR. FAGE: Actually, the decrease, because there was $10,000 in that cost, a total of $80,000, so it is $70,000 when you net it out, minus the $183,000 should leave you a net of $113,000.
MR. MACKINNON: Yes, I was just going to add that extra $10,000 in there because we are going from $10,000 to $80,000. I would certainly agree with the minister that this is really not a charge to the taxpayer, the user-pay concept, except for the piece of legislation that is now before the House under the Assessment Act. When you take this change of policy and add it with the fact that the municipal taxpayers will see a shift in their tax burden, then therein lies the bogeyman. There is the additional charge to the taxpayer. It is the municipal taxpayer. So in essence, I would submit that one could make the argument that it is downloading on the municipal taxpayer as a change of policy.
MR. FAGE: I don't dispute anything you are saying, but I think we have to remember that these sites are offshore. There are only a few spots attracting property tax in Nova Scotia, and those would relate mostly to fish ponds on inland opportunities. What it attempted to do was to treat resource-based industries in the municipal legislation, that you see before the House, generally the same. As you well know, the previous administration reinstated a resource for farmland in Nova Scotia, woodlands are charged 25, and all of those are certainly valuable things that assess resource-based industry. The attempt, where the adjustment would be absolutely minimal to municipalities at this point, was to treat all resource-based operations in a similar way in relation to property tax.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I just wish to advise the honourable member that he has about 28 minutes left in his time. As well, we are debating Resolution E11, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, not Resolution E17, the Department of Natural Resources. Please keep
your line of questioning directly on Fisheries and not on Natural Resources or the Municipal Act.
MR. MACKINNON: He is the Minister of Natural Resources.
MR. CHAIRMAN: But we are not debating Resolution E17 at the present time.
MR. MACKINNON: I didn't think we were off the topic.
MR. CHAIRMAN: You went off on a tangent.
MR. MACKINNON: I think the minister and I will just move on to the next subject, we certainly won't take issue with our Chairman.
With regard to the issue on Native land claims, I realize the federal government has prepared a buy-out package for fishermen who would like to exit the fishing industry, so as to create that opportunity for the Native community, which is fine, but, I am given to understand there are a number of complications. Number one, dispute over the monies that one would expect as opposed to what the government is prepared to offer. Is the minister aware of any of the details of discussions that are transpiring between the Nova Scotia fishermen, or different groups in the federal government? What is the status of that particular impasse or issue?
MR. FAGE: I will preface my remarks on the knowledge that I am reasonably sure of in discussions with the federal minister and his agents, and certainly I am not speaking on behalf of them. In Atlantic Canada, there is approximately enough money, they feel, allocated, or they would like to have 300 lobster licences and a number of snow crab licences, that is my understanding. What they are attempting to do is negotiate those for each zone individually in relation to what the average price or economic value of those licences are in that zone. As you and I both know, depending on how many or what volume of lobster you are able to catch determines to a great extent what the licence is worth. A licence in South West Nova may not be of the same economic value as Monastery or Port Morien. That is what they are trying to do.
They are trying to ensure that the licence can only be fished in the zone it is bought in, that is another one of the situations or restrictions. The federal government has to be very careful here. It is not an easy situation, that they don't artificially increase the price of lobster licences and the gear so that transfers in the traditional fishery become too expensive for neighbours. That if you have to buy gear from their family or buy gear from a neighbour, the price doesn't get inflated because of the federal government in the market, through their efforts to try to integrate the fishery, and it then becomes non-viable for other Nova Scotians that are not of the Native community to acquire a lobster licence and a boat.
The other consideration that is being placed here is, again, the training component is being paid for and agreed to, as well as there are opportunities for the boat to be transferred if it is in proper condition and the federal government deems that they would want to finance the boat. The other part that is unique in this is that when those licences are purchased from the commercial fishery, they are transferred to the band and they become a communal licence at that point. Then it is basically the number of traps under the licence, distributed over a group of individuals rather than a single individual.
MR. MACKINNON: Out of the approximately 300 in Atlantic Canada, how many would be estimated to be from Nova Scotia?
MR. FAGE: Again, I am reluctant to speak de facto on behalf of the federal government, but obviously they are probably looking in the range of excess of 100 licences here to satisfy . . .
MR. MACKINNON: Approximately one-third.
MR. FAGE: Yes.
MR. MACKINNON: I understand that a number of the fishermen that the federal government would anticipate or would like to sell their lobster licences and so forth, they are not willing to do that, and I understand that there is what they call a plan B in the event that the fishermen refuse to accept this voluntary buy-out package. Is the minister aware of this fall-back position? What are the implications for the non-Native fishermen?
MR. FAGE: My understanding is that plan B involves two scenarios not one. Plan B would be involved if there are no licences available, or terms of licences that were offered were too high in the estimation of the federal government. Plan B would be if there is no agreement reached with an individual band, the federal government would then intend to allow the Natives to exercise a right to go fishing, but they would impose what they felt was a proper limit of traps and the amount of fishing they would be allowed to do for this year.
MR. MACKINNON: I am fortunate enough, on my mother's side, we came from a long line of fishermen and a fair number of them are still in the lobster fishing community in eastern Cape Breton. The suggestion has been made that the federal government is looking at clawing back 25 of these traps from the quota, bringing them from 275 down to 250. The argument has been made that is for conservation purposes. The apprehension or the fear or whatever term you so choose to use, is that they will be used to create new quotas. Has that issue been discussed at the provincial level, or at least has there been any consultation with the provincial government on that aspect?
MR. FAGE: Three weeks ago I spent three hours with regional or Atlantic Canada DFO officials as well as the federal minister on those very types of discussions. That particular point was not discussed or raised as an alternative at that meeting, but certainly I will endeavour to initiate discussions with the federal minister to see if they are making that consideration. In the different scenarios we discussed at that meeting, that was not one of the proposals. I can tell you, certainly from myself and our department's point of view, we would be extremely concerned if expropriation was how licences or quota or access to the fishery was gained, rather than negotiation. That particular circumstance was not discussed at that meeting.
MR. MACKINNON: Perhaps on that aspect, since I did raise it, if the minister is fortunate enough to come across any additional information that would provide some insights for the local fishermen, it would certainly be appreciated.
MR. FAGE: Certainly, if the honourable member would encourage fishermen from his area to participate in the ministers' conference in Truro later this month, that would be one of the major issues that we will be discussing on the agenda.
MR. MACKINNON: Before I get onto a local issue, the wharves and the storm damage and so on, I would like to focus on some of these aquaculture sites. I understand from some of the fishermen in South West Nova that there is a growing concern about the effects of these aquaculture sites on the lobster fishery because of the residual that is created at the bottom of the nets. Apparently there is a lot of negative sediment or whatever, I don't want to use certain terms, some residual that could be considered toxic or just contrary to the health of the lobster fishing community. Is the minister aware of any of these complaints and, if so, what action is being taken to address them?
MR. FAGE: That is a very good question. I think the department is very concerned that decisions made in regard to aquaculture sites or the fishery in general, that a large component of that has to be based on sound scientific evidence. Certainly to that light, I think we look at other jurisdictions. We need to conduct research across Canada and, as well, in conjunction with the federal government, to ensure that we have accurate facts to deal with and that it is scientifically sound. Any time there is competing uses for any piece of water, no matter how small or how large it is, certainly there are going to be various anecdotal evidence and veiwpoints, whether it is for recreational boating or swimming, whether it is for aquaculture, whether it is for aesthetics or commercial fishery, there is going to be competition and discussion, which there rightly should be, for what is the best use for that particular piece of water.
Whether droppings and unconsumed food from a site that would be a finfish operation, which covers an extremely small area, is detrimental to other species, I think needs to be determined on a scientific basis. As always, we encourage the federal government, as well as our department, to garner more evidence to help make those decisions. It is
interesting, some observations from the scientific community, that there are crustaceans that thrive near those facilities because there is actually more food that they would eat dropped through those particular cages to the floor of the ocean because of the activity of those particular finfish above them.
MR. MACKINNON: Do we have sufficient scientific expertise, provincially, to be able to make that determination?
MR. FAGE: It is an extremely insightful question. Are we a major research centre? Absolutely not. Do we correspond, do we collect data from other jurisdictions regardless of governments or countries or areas in this country and associations? Yes, we do. Decisions, as evidence comes in one way or the other, are added to the base of scientific knowledge. That forms a part of any decision made in relation to the fishery.
MR. MACKINNON: Approximately how many aquaculture sites do we have in the province?
MR. FAGE: In conferring with the staff, approximately 375. I would like to harken that those are the actual number of leases out there, those are not all active sites.
MR. MACKINNON: Would it be safe to say approximately 300 or 250?
MR. FAGE: The number of active sites right now is 210, and the exact number of leases is 369.
MR. MACKINNON: We have approximately 210, and some of them have been in existence for upwards of 10 years?
MR. FAGE: Yes, the renewals on the first 10-year leases are coming due in the last year or so.
MR. MACKINNON: I guess that is where I have a bit of concern, if they have been in operation for upwards of 10 years. That could certainly reflect back to when we were in government too. It is not just all of a sudden somebody is trying to drop a rock on your head and say you haven't done anything when you inherit these problems. It is not something that happens overnight. The fact of the matter is, if we have approximately 210 active sites for upwards of 10 years, I would think that the experts within the department, not pointing any fingers, whether it be provincial or federal, I would think by now would have obtained sufficient scientific information or some type of biological information that would show a cause and effect relationship with these sites versus some of the traditional species, for example, lobsters.
MR. FAGE: Certainly, as I said before, all information is subject to discussion, and individuals and organizations very regularly will use that compiled information and knowledge to debate the particular viewpoint they hold on a subject. That is what the scientific information is there for. In regard to the sites, the federal government is responsible for the environmental studies that are carried out on those particular sites, and we work in strong partnership because we are the ones who issue the lease, to ensure that those sites are indeed as safe as they possibly can be for the Native fishery, as well as for the environment itself. That body of knowledge is, in major part, information used to determine whether that site is leased or not.
MR. MACKINNON: It underlines a very important issue, and that is the potential for liability should these various parties start to take issue with each other. If we were to fall back and the argument was made that we didn't take, with all due diligence, the appropriate steps to ensure that every possible effort was taken to ensure that traditional species weren't affected. As noted yesterday with my colleague from Hants East, with regard to the introduction of foreign species into native waters here, the cause and effect of the relationship. I just wanted to plant the seed there, on the issue of due diligence, that perhaps after 10 years if it could be shown that we weren't on top of things, and I am sure that if I was sitting in the minister's position, I would be getting a little apprehensive. I believe the minister certainly understands the magnitude of the issue there.
I would like to switch over to the Fisheries Loan Board. I understand it works in conjunction with the Department of Economic Development. There are a number of different roles that it performs. What is the situation at the Fisheries Loan Board? How many outstanding loans do we have, and what is the value of those outstanding loans?
MR. FAGE: In consultation with staff, the total amount of loans outstanding, or portfolio for the department, is approximately $40 million. That is the amount of loans the Fisheries Loan Board have on their books. Approximately 800-900 clients involved in those loans, and the arrears or default rate is between 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent of loans per volume.
MR. MACKINNON: So we are only looking at approximately eight or nine that are delinquent?
MR. FAGE: The exact numbers can supply a data sheet showing those to you. That is probably the best thing to do, but those are the general parameters within a percentage point or so of where it sits.
MR. MACKINNON: Actually, I would have thought it would have been a little bit higher because even under normal commercial banking operations, it is usually a little bit higher than that.
MR. FAGE: Comparing that, we will give you the exact numbers. Conferring with staff, as I said, it could be a variation of as much as a per cent on those numbers.
MR. MACKINNON: The Fisheries Loan Board as well, provides loan guarantees as well as loans. Is there an estimate of what the total value of the loan guarantees are to date? Also, has our good friend, the Minister of Finance, been apprised of that value so he can include that in his total debt to the province?
MR. FAGE: The formula or situation in regard to the loan guarantees, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture only supply them for aquaculture operations, not all operations. Then it is a cap of $2 million a year, the volume that the loan guarantees would be issued up to is $2 million a year. It is only a program involving aquaculture, no other parts of the traditional fishery counts.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, I guess what made me ask that question was because of Scotia Rainbow Fishery. I believe there was a loan guarantee of $2.3 million?
MR. FAGE: I believe it was $2.2 million.
MR. MACKINNON: It was $2.2 million? That would be in excess of the limit though.
MR. FAGE: We can check for you, but I am assuming with the number of requests that came in over the years that was probably cumulative over two to three years. But we can get that exact information.
MR. MACKINNON: Do we have a cumulative figure?
MR. FAGE: Of total guarantees?
MR. MACKINNON: Yes.
MR. FAGE: We can get that number for you.
MR. MACKINNON: Okay, that is fine. With regard to the issue of storm damage, I am sure that took place down in other parts of the province, but in eastern Nova Scotia, down through Guysborough and Port Hawkesbury and up through Richmond County and moving down into my constituency, in and around the Louisbourg, Little Lorraine, Main-A-Dieu area, that coastal region there, I believe I sent some correspondence to you and in particular, to the minister responsible for EMO; there were approximately 25 or 26 fishermen and fisheries-related operations that had damage to their wharves, seawalls, sheds and that sort of thing. I noticed in the minister's statement, the Minister of Health, that these facilities would not be covered for damage. Is there any budgetary allotment within your budget to deal with any of these issues?
MR. FAGE: A couple of months ago, that storm surge damaged and destroyed many wharves and breakwater structures throughout many areas of Nova Scotia. I received the correspondence and fax from yourself, as well as a large number of other members' constituents concerns about wharves. We have passed those concerns and requests onto the federal government. As you are aware, the federal government has always been responsible for wharf maintenance, repair, construction, and from our viewpoint as a provincial government and I as minister, we have made representation directly to the minister that that is still their responsibility regardless of divestiture.
The dollars required to maintain or repair that storm damage is certainly far beyond any capacity that the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and has never been the responsibility of that department. Certainly, we don't have the resources to assume it and we are vigorously lobbying the federal government not to abdicate their authority and responsibility in this regard.
In conjunction with the budget of the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, a wonderful program began a couple of years ago by the department and that program involved, initially, for two years, $130,000 and it will be approximately that this year again. That only deals with recreational wharves, floating docks and marinas to help lever funds to community groups to do some work in regard to opportunities for a multi-use, small dock or marina, and in no way intended to be involved in wharves, breakwater or armour rock involved in traditional federal responsibility with wharves and with those major structures.
MR. MACKINNON: I can certainly appreciate where the minister is coming from in terms of the cost of the damage. I think it would essentially just gobble up the entire departmental budget without even blinking an eye.
MR. FAGE: In our estimation, that wouldn't even be a start.
MR. MACKINNON: Perhaps not. I can appreciate where the minister is coming from on that particular issue. I would certainly concur that the federal government does have a responsibility here and, to date, it has been dragging its feet. I will go on the record as saying that. I would have thought that at least there would have been some type of a cost-sharing arrangement, even if it was only minimal to a certain extent. I was always of the impression or the understanding that if small commercial fishermen worked in a group, if there were half a dozen - let's say, for example, down in Little Lorraine, they all use the same wharf and they could, as a group, apply for some provincial assistance to help construct that wharf and that has been done in the past. So, I realize that in dealing with the overall storm damage that would just make it impossible. Is there nothing within the budget to deal with any of the other aspects?
MR. FAGE: In relationship to the storm damage and planking, armour rock, all those types of things, again, that is the role of the federal government. Under the fisheries policy and at times with the DNR budget, if a small community wharf can be of help with the supply of material or something like that, we make every effort to ensure that happens. The situation in regard to the storm and the tidal surge and the ordinary ongoing operations, those repairs are federal responsibilities. Again, we have our small fund, we will lever and we will help and donate at times wherever we can patch and help a little, but . . .
MR. MACKINNON: But you will use your persuasive powers? I guess one final question.
MR. FAGE: Absolutely, I made sure that our representative in the federal government was well aware of the issue at the last meeting.
MR. MACKINNON: One final short snapper. Are there any other user fees that are going to be implemented in this year's budget, other than the ones for aquaculture? If so, could we get an estimate of what they are?
MR. FAGE: We have mentioned that we intend to increase the fee for aquaculture applications from $10,000 to $80,000. There will also be fee increases for plant and fish buyer licences, and that will generate $50,000 in total. An increased fee for the loan application will generate $60,000 in total, we project. As well, advertising for sport fishing and the regulation book, we will sell advertising as we normally do and that will generate a total of $20,000.
MR. MACKINNON: We will be getting a printout of that?
MR. FAGE: Yes. Those totals that I have just listed are not the actual increases but how much we project those programs will generate in this year's budget.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Your time has expired.
The honourable member for Hants East.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Chairman, I may just ask the minister, again, in relating to the previous member's last question, it sounds as though you may have already touched on that previous to his asking that question, but I tried to jot down what you had said, the $10,000 to $80,000, what was that for?
MR. FAGE: The first in revenue generation is an increased fee for aquaculture applications and leases, in that category as well is annual lease payments. That is $80,000 that we project will be generated this year. The second category is increased fees for plant and fish
buyer licences, and that will generate $50,000 in total this year. Increased fees for the loan applications will generate $60,000 in total this year. Advertising for the sport fishing regulation book, we anticipate, will generate $20,000 this year. All those are accounted for in the estimates as well.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: So these are just increases in present fees, these are not new fees?
MR. FAGE: These are increases in present fees. I do not believe any of those are free services at the present time, currently there is a charge. We have increased them to more reflect the cost of processing that application. The benefit in most, other than the last one, the person who would benefit from it is the person or the business involved.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Are there any new ones? These were existing ones that you increased. I just wonder if there are any new fees.
MR. FAGE: Not at this point, no.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Are you anticipating any? If there is none at this point, then . . .
MR. FAGE: We are always looking at opportunities to decrease taxpayers' involvement and to allow alternative ways to finance the department. It certainly plays a large, integral role in this department, where it is resource-based and there are opportunities to recoup returns because they are economic generators for the individuals involved. Yes, we will be in an ongoing review of opportunities to generate income.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I thought I picked up from your deputy's whisper to you that these were some things that you hadn't seen, so I am just wondering what is coming down the pipe, in a time-frame, you don't have to be specific as to what may be there. I am just thinking, is it within a year, is it within two years?
MR. FAGE: I would point out to the honourable member, the whispers he was hearing were not from the deputy but from the financial official. In that regard, these are the ones that are currently in the budget. Again, I would reiterate, we are examining all alternatives and ways to generate income. If there is an opportunity to increase options for the department that don't affect the taxpayer, we will have a look at them and put them forward for the consideration of the House.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Regarding the restructuring of Agriculture and Fisheries, this budget here is basically the Department of Fisheries and it is not an amalgamated department, but I am wondering if you can tell me if there are any jobs that are going to be cut from the Department of Fisheries, and if so, how many and where?
MR. FAGE: It is a multi-tiered question, and I will try to go through those different tiers. I think it is important to point out that the amalgamation of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Fisheries will take place over this budgetary year. That is the reasoning at the beginning of this year. These are estimates for the expenditures for the year, you would see them differently next year, our intention would be you would see one budget for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.
In that regard, this exercise through the Department of Fisheries to conform to budgetary restraints and the reality of a $600 million deficit, the actual number of FTEs, full-time equivalents, in this year's budget is a decrease of 5.5. Now those, I harken quickly to add, it is no different than the misinterpretation or the misconstruing of facts that occurs on the floor of the House on a daily basis, many of those positions are vacant, and it doesn't mean that anywhere near those numbers of people are actually losing their job. As Ministers of Executive Council, from the day they took office, one of the requirements was that, strictly, if a vacancy arose, unless it was deemed absolutely essential, it was not filled.
There is a significant number of positions in many departments, Agriculture and Fisheries being no different, where those actual positions are vacant. There is not an employee associated with it. What you are doing is eliminating a salary for a vacant position that may have been for an extended length of time, more than one budgetary year, being used someplace else.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Do you know how many of those 5.5 have been vacant for a while; how many represent vacant positions and how many represent people positions?
MR. FAGE: Currently there are three vacancies, one staff person is transferring to another government department, one person is retiring, and an additional position was a contract position, the 0.5, and that contract is not being renewed, they are not a permanent employee of the department, they were contracted for a specific period of time for a specific purpose.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Can you tell me where the three are vacant and the one retired . . .
MR. FAGE: Are you referring to which department or the physical location of where the person is employed?
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Well, I am assuming it is within Fisheries and Aquaculture.
MR. FAGE: I am not making myself clear. I will give you both, the department and where they were located in the province, the community. I assume that is what you want. The first one, the location is in Halifax, it is a full-time position that is vacant, the position of the executive assistant to the minister. On becoming minister, I did not fill that position. Now we are eliminating that position and eliminating the salary associated with it as well. The next vacant one is a position located in Truro, and this one is a lab position. The third vacancy is a biologist position that is associated with the Fisheries School in Pictou. It is currently vacant and will not be renewed. The contract person is also in Pictou and obviously would have been teaching a course for a specific amount of time, and would have been hired just to teach that course. The retiring person is located in Halifax, and they are with the Fisheries Loan Board.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: And the transfer went to?
MR. FAGE: The transfer went to the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, the Department of Agriculture. The aquaculture instructor at AC was funded through Fisheries. It is part of the AC teaching division, so we are transferring the staff plus the salary to the Department of Agriculture to better align it with the Agricultural College's budget.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: What programs have been cut or modified? Along with that, I should probably add, what programs have you created?
MR. FAGE: I am not aware if you were in attendance with the member for the Liberal Party, but we have gone through many of those positions. Would you like me to reiterate each one of those programs?
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Could you just send me a document that would save you going through that again?
MR. FAGE: Certainly.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I am wondering, in looking at the overall budget for the department, you have had a reduction in the budget, so I am just wondering if you can tell me, and this may be too general a question, where that went? Am I right that it is almost $3 million?
MR. FAGE: The majority of that reduction was a program that was an old workers' retirement program associated with TAGS. That was an in-and-out one for one year, similar to Agriculture and the accelerated program that I did with the drought where we made three years' payments in one. For last year, both of these budgets were elevated significant dollars to make those particular one-time payments. It was never intended that workers' program would be back in in this budget. The exact amount of that workers' program was $3,500,000. That is the value to subtract from that, and that will give you a true picture, a year over year budget, dealing with the program of the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
There is a list, you requested other program cuts beyond that. Again, they will be tied in majorly to those positions there, but from the Office of the Minister and Deputy Minister, there is a $52,200 decrease. Aquaculture licencing and development, there is $68,400 reduction. Obviously that is offset with some fee increases that we spoke about earlier. Fisheries Loan Board, that is $63,200 decrease. The in-land fisheries, $12,000 decrease.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: That was what?
MR. FAGE: In-land fisheries. Also on in-land fisheries, which is a division of the department, resource management, $70,000. Again, that is in relationship to positions not filled. Also in inspection services, licencing and enforcement there is a $70,000 decrease. As well, operational services for fish health and extension, a $50,000 decrease. With priorities and reorganization, there are a number of offsetting increases in other departments so that when you take out the $3.5 million, you end up with this year's target at $5,716,000. The total real reductions were $180,000. New funding, that is from other sources or increases to the department because the commitment was $206,000, so the actual net change, once you take that one-time payment out ends up at $37,000.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I am wondering about the fisheries inspection mentioned on Page 12.3, and I am wondering if in the combining of the two departments, will these fisheries inspectors still be fisheries inspectors or will they be food inspectors? Will they be people with somehow a combined job of Agriculture and Fisheries?
MR. FAGE: That particular issue is one that will be addressed over the coming months of this year, in the combination of the departments. As you know, a number of like services have been combined throughout food inspection and other branches, and those types of things. Obviously those will be some of the considerations. Currently, they do the inspections at the processing facilities, retail and other storage locations.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I want to talk briefly about the aquaculture side of the department and the industry. I was interested to hear the numbers that you told the honourable member for Cape Breton West. I hear some complaints by people regarding their thoughts about the inappropriateness of having aquaculture operations in bays or harbours in the province, in particular where those operations may impact the existing fish stocks, whether lobster or whatever. I think I heard you say that this province's responsibility is to give out the permits, but the environmental concerns are federal. Am I right in that?
MR. FAGE: Yes, the actual delegation of the permit for environment and the environmental assessment is a federal authority. Again, the same as the allocation for the quota. The lease issuance and actual administration is the responsibility of the province. Once they have attained the environmental okay from DFO or the federal authorities, then we would proceed and process their application. If they met our guidelines, then they would be issued a lease.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: The guidelines under which this province will allow them to operate are not related to environmental, are they related to cage size, are they related to species, or are they related to . . .
MR. FAGE: I would like to point out to the honourable member that the fact is we are hugely concerned about the environment. The previous answer was the actual context of delineation of authority. They are responsible for issuing the permit. Obviously, from the provincial perspective, our input into the process and recommendations would centre in large part upon the environmental concerns. The viability of financing the aesthetics, partnershipping, community and we have various public meetings, RADACs and other venues to assess and help determine the whole host of factors, but obviously the environment is very high on our list. The permit is required from the federal government, they are the ones, because again of constitutional authority, they would issue the permit. It is the highest one, in our perspective as the provincial authority, that the environment comes number one in these issues.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: To your knowledge, over the past 10 years or so when aquacultural operations have started in the province, has the federal government or this government ever acted to remove a permit or to shut down an operation for environmental concerns?
MR. FAGE: We could find out for you in regard to the federal government. Obviously, some sites are disapproved on a regular basis because they don't qualify. From our perspective, again the environment is extremely important. We have a number of other factors we have to consider, but certainly there have been many sites rejected on initial proposal over the last 10 years and one site was rejected on reapplication after 10 years.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I am just thinking about an operation down in St. Margaret's Bay area? Am I right, is there one there? I seem to get correspondence regarding concerns.
MR. FAGE: There are a number of sites there currently that are under close scrutiny, but I assume and feel you are probably talking about a particular site that was a reapplication. A RADAC was recently held there. The RADAC report was reported to me as minister last week. As minister, it is my sole authority to make the decision whether to (a) issue the application in the first place; or (b) to renew it. There was a RADAC on this particular site for renewal and I as minister chose not to reissue the lease on that particular spot.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: It seems that the communities of Mulgrave and Canso have been seeking fish quotas or allotments of fish quota and I think I mentioned to you last time we spoke regarding the community of Mulgrave. I am just wondering, have they received any allocation of shrimp quota for a plant down there?
MR. FAGE: There are a number of ongoing applications in regard to Mulgrave and Canso and many other areas of Nova Scotia with individual producers and group associations wishing to be allocated new or increases on quota. There has been some success for some groups and some individuals in Canso and those zones, but again, it is a federal jurisdiction. We lobby strongly for individuals and communities for allocation increases when it is available. We are very cognizant of conservation. We would not want allocations to exceed the biomass, but we lobby for individuals and groups in that area and they have had some success in the last year down there.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I know there was, I think Glace Bay Inshore Fishermen's Association had been trying to get access to the snow crab fishery and I did know the numbers of the two quadrants or sectors off Cape Breton where they wanted to go. I am going to say 21 and 22, I might be wrong, but, actually they were looking at about a 10 mile radius from the line separating 21 and 22. I believe that they said fishermen who were allocated the quota in those areas weren't accessing and they were trying to get the availability of that resource. I am wondering if you are aware of that or if you know where that has gone at all?
MR. FAGE: Yes, certainly, very much aware and in consultation with groups in both of those zones. Obviously, we are not going to make any representation that pits one fisherman or one group of fishermen against another and the proposal is much more in depth than issuing another group 10 miles into another zone. What I would tell the member is we have strongly worked with both groups to come to a mutually agreed upon resolution and have recommended that to the federal government.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me. To the honourable member, could I ask do you think you will take the full hour?
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I don't expect to take the full hour, Mr. Chairman.
MR. FAGE: Is it just possible to recess for five minutes?
MR. CHAIRMAN: Sure. We can, but I am on a tight schedule to get out by 6:30 p.m., so I can recess for no more than five minutes.
[4:27 p.m. The committee recessed.]
[4:38 p.m. The committee reconvened.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. MacDonell, you can resume your questioning please.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you Mr. Chairman. I won't venture with Mulgrave and Canso, only to raise the concern that I know those communities are looking for a resource they can tap and try to stabilize their communities and the jobs there.
I wonder if the minister can tell me the present state of the seal industry in Nova Scotia and if there is going to be a harvest this year and I heard that prices were down and that they weren't sure what was going to happen.
MR. FAGE: I don't have the particular literature here to give the exact number of how many seals were harvested, but certainly did initiate and sign a permit for an experimental operation this year. This year, as you have noted, prices are down and in jurisdictions, particularly like Newfoundland where it is still a large venture, it has been particularly difficult for them to come up with an economic return in the situation. Those types of things make it doubly hard in that regard on the economic front to have a situation where seal numbers are controlled or culled and it has an economic benefit. I did issue a permit and there was an experimental seal culling done and now the ice is out of the gulf pretty well, the pack ice, and the season is over.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: You had mentioned, and I can't remember if it was in your speech or not, but trout stocking upon request from the general public. You had mentioned about the number of lakes that are stocked by the department, so, are they done on the initiative of the department or are they done at public request as well?
MR. FAGE: Every year there are a number of lakes and streams and rivers in this province that are normally stocked on an ongoing basis, or we try to. Then there are opportunities when the general public make requests to have an assessment to see if it is needed, and if it would be prudent to do that. In Nova Scotia we stocked approximately 500 lakes, streams, and rivers in this province last year.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: The fish they are stocked with, are they rainbow or are they speckled trout?
MR. FAGE: They would be speckled trout, in the majority of cases.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Do we regard rainbow trout as non-indigenous or are they considered to be an indigenous species now in the province?
MR. FAGE: Certainly the rainbow trout that are in the wild in most rivers and estuaries in this province have been ones that have escaped from captivity or operations, and the area I think of quickly in this province is the Bras d'Or Lakes. To help ensure that there is opportunity for some non-traditional fishing and ensure that native stocks have an opportunity to continue to thrive as best they can; winter fisheries, sport fisheries are held in that particular area, too.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I have often wondered, knowing the relationship between small streams that flow into larger streams which flow into larger streams, if we look at some of the practices that go on around our streams, has the province ever thought of initiating a plan or project? I know at one time there was a joint project between DNR and Agriculture regarding repairing zones and fencing them. There was some support for that from the department. I actually looked at it myself. I have a long brook going through an interval on my property, and on one side the channel of the brook was re-routed, 100 years ago, by my great grandfather, so there are no trees along one whole side of that for quite a ways. I thought about fencing it to keep my livestock out of it and I looked at that program. Is that still in existence?
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, I thank the honourable member for his question. Hopefully the honourable member is fencing livestock out of the stream through the interval. Livestock is a concern when they are in watercourses. On the issue of what I believe to be the program you are referring to, was one that was eliminated a couple of years ago, it was the Stream Bank Enhancement Program. That was administered through the Department of the Environment on the recommendation, obviously, from the other two departments involved. That actually was a program through Environment and it was called the Stream Bank Enhancement Program. It was discontinued, I believe, two budgetary years ago by the previous government.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Okay, you might be right, but I think you are wrong. I think I have the application at home. I may dig it out and we will talk about this at some other point. I think it was a completely different program through DNR and Department of Agriculture, the joint program between them.
MR. CHAIRMAN: That is a federal program through DFO.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you, I think you are wrong, Mr. Chairman, but thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Ecosystem 2000 applications?
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: It may have been; I didn't think it was that. When I mentioned the pickerel and the non-indigenous species in certain waterways, and I think you mentioned Shortts Lake, that you had a winter fishery there to allow anglers to take those fish out of there.
Can you tell me - and this has always been a question I have never had anybody answer for me - I live on the northern tip of Grand Lake, and at the southern end which would be in the area of the Oakfield Golf and Country Club, people ice fish on this lake, and I have been told this is a lake where you are not allowed to ice fish in the winter because of landlocked salmon, or some people refer to it as grayling, which is not accurate, but because
of the species makeup of the lake, it is one where under the guidelines, you can't ice fish in that lake. Yet, I know people do. They never have on the northern end where I live. They have never ice fished there probably because it is not a very deep end. I just wonder if you have any knowledge regarding the regulations around ice fishing and what lakes and what species are affected by where you can and where you can't?
MR. FAGE: Probably the easiest thing to do is - I don't know if you bought your fishing license yet this year?
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I did.
MR. FAGE: If you take that guideline, it lists all lakes where ice fishing is allowed, when the season is, and what species you are allowed to fish. Just check the section involving off-season fishing and what species and what lakes are involved. They are all listed there, as well as a listing of rivers when you can fish trout and other species other than salmon. Those are all listed in that booklet.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Okay. I wasn't aware they were there, so that is good to know. You mentioned there was technical assistance offered to processors. Can you tell me what that entails?
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, that would be in conjunction with any individual processor who is looking for opportunities, whether it be with fish product itself, new processing techniques, whether it is production equipment or product development, plus building and facility design to promote efficiency. All those types of issues would be involved in that particular arena.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: In those cases, would that be dollars that would go out as loans, say from the Fisheries Loan Board, or would it be Economic Development? Is there money spent by the department when they offer that service?
MR. FAGE: I was assuming we were referring to the Technology Inspection Branch. Those would be services and technical advice that would be offered to the department. Financing would come under another division, and that would be, depending on the circumstances, if it was a boat or a maybe certain types of dock or other equipment, it may come through the Fisheries Loan Board. We would have to see the exact application from the individual, or the major fund sourcing would be the Nova Scotia Department of Economic Development.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: You had mentioned to my colleague for Cape Breton the additional $125,000 toward enforcement. I perceived that presently, or prior to that $125,000, there was only $70,000 toward enforcement, and now it is $195,000 with the
additional $125,000. I am curious, if I read that correctly, what are you perceiving as the need for the increase? What has changed to make you think we had to bump this up by that much?
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, certainly the honourable member, I believe, has raised the issue, the reason for the addition here, as well as the commercial fishery and Nova Scotians. The issue is illegal fishing and trying to ensure that illegal fishing is brought to bear in this province. Estimates range into the tens of millions of dollars, the amount of illegal fishing and fishing products that occur in this province. Given the magnitude of our industry of over $1 billion of fish and fish products, the issue strongly needs to be kept in check. In that regard the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia, in its endeavours to show Nova Scotians they had the proper plan and had a system and established priorities for the people of Nova Scotia, put forward additional monies needed to be allocated in their blue book for enforcement here in Nova Scotia, through the department.
On seeing that document, the people of Nova Scotia agreed, and subsequently the Progressive Conservative Party formed a government last summer. In ensuring those commitments in the blue book are honoured, an additional $125,000 has been allocated to enforcement to try to ensure that illegal fishing and illegal activities occurring in the fishery are brought into check and that legitimate business in Nova Scotia is not harmed, taxes are paid and that legitimate businesses continue to be able to hire people, pay taxes, employ their families and do those things that are proper for this province. So that additional funding this year will enable two more enforcement people to be multi-tasked to help monitor and control that situation.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: My thought of the enforcement people, that the province were fish wardens who caught anglers who didn't have a license or whatever, but I am assuming this is a much bigger deal that we are talking about. Is this related to the commercial fishery, these enforcement officers? I thought DFO took care of that.
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, I would like to clear up any confusion in the honourable member's mind. Again, the inland fishery is recreational fishery that brings in licences worth about $82 million to the province, in all types of sales. The $1 billion I previously spoke of is the commercial fishery. For clarity, the issue relating to enforcement pertains primarily around the $1 billion industry associated with the commercial fishery along the coast of Nova Scotia. As I pointed out to the member before, the federal jurisdiction and enforcement and the $13 million they have committed at our request to enforcement, deals with their officers who are on the water, but who would work closely with our officers whose responsibility, under the constitution, begins once that fish or fish product hits the shore. Our enforcement officers work very closely with DFO enforcement officers to track illegal fishing activities offshore.
Onshore, through our inspectors, our issuing of buyers' licences and plan inspection, we would monitor. That would be one of the easiest places to audit and monitor; this includes auditors, all those types of things you would do to enforce and ensure that it was not an illegal product coming out of an operation. These people are dealing with that aspect rather than associated . . .
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Being on the water.
MR. FAGE: Yes. Again, on the water is the federal folks.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I think I have exhausted my questioning ability right now, so I only make one request, if the minister wouldn't mind. I jotted down these notes regarding the fees and the new revenues, but I wouldn't mind if he could give me that on a piece of paper at some point, that would be great. I want to thank the minister and his staff for their help. It has been appreciated.
MR. FAGE: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman, and I thank the honourable member for his insightful questions and recommendations. Certainly, we will supply that chart to you and other information that is available in that regard.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I just wish to advise the member that was requested by the previous member from the Liberal caucus. I have asked that the information be circulated to all caucuses, all the fees and fee structures and increases they request and propose.
I would like to pass the floor back to the Liberal caucus. The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Through you Mr. Chairman, I would like to focus on a number of local entities that have been on the agenda, as of late, in various communities. In particular, one is in my constituency, the Han Beck Fisheries. Would the minister be kind enough to give us a status report? I realize, provincially, we have some money in that particular project. Initially, when the announcement was made, I don't mind saying, with some great fanfare several years ago, I wasn't an elected member at that time, but I recall attending the press conference at the fish plant in Louisbourg.
The federal and provincial governments made a joint announcement. For one reason or the other, the federal government seemed to have withdrawn its support, obviously with the suggestion of some questionable activities that the RCMP became involved with, with the suggestion that perhaps there should have been some charges. No charges have been laid to date. No discussion; it doesn't even seem to be a priority with the RCMP. I understand that you don't start asking questions and setting deadlines for getting their job done, because it would certainly be perceived, if not a real actual interference with justice, but two, almost
three years seems like a rather lengthy period of time for what would seem to be a rather straightforward issue.
I must say that I also addressed this issue with Senator Graham when he was the chief spokesperson for the federal Cabinet in Nova Scotia, I think last August. I haven't heard anything back at that level either. Perhaps the minister could help clarify some of these apparent ambiguities and uncertainties and so on, so we can bring closure to that aspect of it and hopefully entertain a very successful corporate entity.
MR. FAGE: I would preface my remarks that any investigation that is ongoing or the relationship between federal agencies that are involved there, I really couldn't comment on. I would comment on, all provincial government arrangements that were previously made, which have come due and in the last six months, have been honoured with the company and I think that is positive. Also, it is my understanding in discussions with our departmental people who are at the facility, that the facility is working very hard and doing reasonably well.
They are accessing finfish from various sources offshore to process, as well as very actively becoming involved and looking for additional snow crab quota or snow crab production that may result from that increased quota around this province. As well, their ice plant is monitored and doing very well. They appear to be meeting their commitments and moving forward. Other than that, it is a private company. I always feel that private companies have a certain degree of protection, or a certain degree of non-disclosure that should be involved with them, but certainly from the provincial perspective, obligations made to them and committed to them have been honoured in the last six months in regard to finances. They appear to be moving ahead just fine with production, aggressively seeking new markets, and processing down there. Hopefully things go well with them.
MR. MACKINNON: I thank the minister for his comments. Certainly the ice plant alone, whether the owners of Han Beck were there or not, was a very successful - actually, that was essentially the only money-making operation that was there for some period of time that kept the lights on. That is the bottom line.
MR. FAGE: Sometimes it is really important to pick the right mix in the basket.
MR. MACKINNON: I appreciate the fact that the minister did pick the positive aspects because it is important to have a positive attitude, particularly with a rather difficult and sometimes competitive industry. Only those who are involved in it would have a better understanding than I would. I guess I have always been a little perplexed by the fact that when the announcement was initially made, it was to develop an under-utilized species or a new species of some sort, this surimi - I am not very good on the language and the terminology. What appears to be transpiring is some movement towards acquiring additional wharfing facilities in the adjoining community of Main-à-Dieu and so on. That is raising some concern with some of the inshore fishermen and certainly a competing entity that has been long
established in the community, employing some 65 employees as well. I can appreciate that. I certainly support any opportunity that would develop the fishing value-added aspect of the industry.
I can also respect competing forces saying, look, if we are in the private sector, why are we using taxpayers money to set up an operation that will eventually move in and take over our share of the market. I don't want to go too far into it because I realize there are a lot of complexities to it, and I understand it is certainly something that came on the minister's plate, certainly not a choosing of this present administration. It is just a cautionary note. I realize the former Deputy Minister of Fisheries is now manager or taking a very active role at the plant. I think that is good to have some expertise (Interruption) Mr. MacKinnon, I believe. Am I correct?
MR. FAGE: Yes, Mr. MacKinnon is advisor on groundfish stocks to the department.
MR. MACKINNON: Just so you know, no potential conflicts of interest do arise, and I know that Mr. MacKinnon is a very honourable individual, but it is a very Irish and a very emotional community at times, in general. I say that because that is where my family comes from.
On another issue with regard to Scotia Rainbow, the minister indicated the amount of funding put forth, I believe it was $2.3 million, is it?
MR. FAGE: From the province there is $2.2 million, and $1.3 million as a loan.
MR. MACKINNON: A loan guarantee as well, so approximately $7 million on the books.
MR. FAGE: As well as the Department of Economic Development . . .
MR. MACKINNON: What is the status of Scotia Rainbow? Does it have a lifeline at the end of the day, is it meeting its financial obligations?
MR. FAGE: Currently, it is my understanding they are in the process of trying to restructure. There are negotiations going on between all the creditors, looking at possibilities to allow the company to remain and move forward. From the context of those creditors, they are endeavouring to do everything they can, from commercial banks to federal lending institutions to suppliers to see if they can keep the firm ongoing. Those discussions, talks, and negotiations are occurring as we speak.
MR. MACKINNON: What about the provincial loan and loan guarantee? Are they meeting their obligations provincially?
MR. FAGE: Currently, those obligations, which were put in place in recent times, as in last fall, haven't come due yet, is my understanding. Currently, they are not, as far as we are concerned, in arrears.
MR. MACKINNON: The acid test hasn't kicked in yet, so to speak.
MR. FAGE: Obviously, we, like everyone else, would like to see the operation stabilize and move forward. It had some significant contracts and opportunities in the Japanese market and given the right circumstances, can be an asset to this province.
MR. MACKINNON: Another entity is the Bounty Bay Shellfish. There was supposed to be a public hearing held in Richmond County. I understand at some point either yourself, Mr. Minister, or someone within our department wrote a letter to the municipal council and asked for their input on it. Of course, they came back with a communication of resistance to the project, but it would appear that wasn't in line with the public consultation process. I am wondering if there is any effort to have a public hearing on this issue?
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, I thank the honourable member. If this is the proposal that I think it is, St. Anns Bay, it is my understanding that the public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday night, tomorrow night.
MR. MACKINNON: Tomorrow night?
MR. FAGE: If my memory serves me correctly, that public meeting, information meeting, is being held tomorrow night.
MR. MACKINNON: Oh, that is very good. Thank you. I think that is a positive initiative. In that regard as well, the minister made reference to the fact that the cod quota in southwest Nova Scotia was increased, through lobbying efforts by the provincial government, I think from 3,000 to 6,000 metric tons?
MR. FAGE: The actual set of circumstances was that the federal group that is in charge of making recommendations was advocating that it be 4,000 metric ton. We, in consultation with the industry and other associated expertise, were recommending that it should be 6,000, and it was set at 6,000.
MR. MACKINNON: I am going to be a little selfish here and ask the minister what lobbying efforts has the minister made, to date, for the fishermen in eastern Nova Scotia, say from Guysborough down through Richmond and Cape Breton County, on similar type issues?
MR. FAGE: I think the member's question is well put. Certainly each area has individual desires, expectations, and situations they would like to see achieved. One of the major ones for eastern areas is looking at the potential of an experimental fishery offshore dealing with snow crab. We are currently in a situation where we are discussing and putting forward the situation strongly with our federal counterparts to ensure there are more opportunities in that area. That seems to be a species where there is real new growth potential with those new zones. If we can establish an experimental fishery offshore to assert the stocks, that would be a huge boost to a number of communities along the Eastern Shore.
MR. MACKINNON: That is right. That issue with the snow crab, as I understand, when that aspect of the fishery was established, individual boat quotas were in the order for 70,000 or 80,000 pounds each. Last year, this amount had declined to about 30,000. In the area, 18 fishermen claimed that their crab is where the crab mature and then move on to areas 12 and 19, I believe it is. However, despite repeated requests to the Department of Fisheries, they allowed that fishing to continue. They haven't really been having great success with the Department of Fisheries. My question to the minister would be, what efforts have been put in, provincially, to help resolve this impasse?
MR. FAGE: Recently, we met with representatives for snow crab fishermen from Zone 18. What we are looking for is not a situation where you have confrontation between fishermen from one zone to the next, but a negotiated settlement. In that regard, we are working with that group on a proposal to the federal regulatory people, as well as other fishermen along that zone edge. Hopefully we will be successful, but we are working with them right now and have sponsored their proposal forward.
MR. MACKINNON: Has that been just verbal dialogue? Has there been any written correspondence back and forth between the provincial Department of Fisheries and the federal Department of Fisheries on this issue?
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, yes, there has been correspondence with the federal Minister of Fisheries and his officials in regard to that proposal.
MR. MACKINNON: Is it possible, unless there is some Freedom of Information requirements or some confidentiality issues there, to make that information available?
MR. FAGE: As long as there is nothing restricted about it, it certainly would be my pleasure to bring it forward.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Once again, I trust that will be given to all caucuses.
MR. MACKINNON: Well, it is public information, sure. I don't want the minister to think I am just on a political fishing expedition here, but rather just to show the individual fishermen that there has been a genuine effort made and that their voices are not just falling
on deaf ears. I think that would give them a comfort level, especially as the season approaches emotions tend to run high. Even in my own backyard, there is considerable concern in and around the Louisbourg area. As we recall last year, it got a little emotional here because, with all due respect to the minister, he was talking on one aspect of an issue and I was on another issue. I guess I misread the issue at that time. So I am guilty on that.
As we get closer, there are two groups of fishermen. There is what they call the traditional crab fishing, and then there are the part-timers. For whatever reason, when the traditional applied for additional quota, they only applied for, I am not sure, 25 per cent or 30 per cent increase, and they ended up with a 50 per cent increase. The part-timers only got half of that. Proportionately you would have thought it should have been pro-rated accordingly. That led to the blockade in Louisbourg Harbour. Emotions ran high where you literally had brothers and sisters fighting with each other. I think in some cases they haven't even resolved the differences, personally, because of this particular issue. I had made an appeal to the then federal minister, Minister Anderson, who indicated he would come to Louisbourg at the end of the season, and then he was transferred to another department. I find out, as of two, maybe three weeks ago, that the present Fisheries Minister didn't even know about that scheduled meeting.
My question would be, is the minister aware of this, or his department aware of this particular situation? Are they monitoring it, is there a way to work with the fishermen to ensure that that type of difficult situation doesn't arise again? It is very unfortunate when you see a community of families torn apart. It leaves scars for years to come.
MR. FAGE: Certainly, we are there to try to support and help the community and the fishermen, and to make recommendations on reasonable allocations and the type of allocation that is defensible and sensible and there is a reason for doing it. Obviously it is totally a federal responsibility. The ultimate decision will be theirs. We will endeavour to do anything we can to help put forward the decision that would be reflective of the community's concerns and respect conservation and management of that resource.
MR. MACKINNON: Perhaps if the minister was willing, either he or someone from his department, to send a letter to the federal minister or someone within his department just to essentially outline that you are aware of the situation and at least offer whatever auspices your department can provide to help resolve the issue, the avenue of least resistance. I think that would at least give them some moral comfort that provincially you and your department are making a reasonable effort, recognizing that it is federal and they don't always listen to the provincial, they haven't always been as responsive as perhaps sometimes they could be.
MR. FAGE: Certainly we will endeavour to be helpful there.
MR. MACKINNON: If I could get a copy of that, I would certainly pass it along to them and extend the appreciation to them, the fact that you are in fact making that effort.
Other than that, Mr. Chairman, I don't have any further questions. I do want to thank the minister, he has been very helpful with his budget. There are some other issues, but I will save them for another day.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Hearing no further questions, I understand all caucuses are finished, I recognize the honourable Minister of Fisheries to close the debate on his estimates and to give him an opportunity for any closing remarks.
MR. FAGE: Mr. Chairman, again, I want to thank the honourable member for his questions, his suggestions, his insight into the fishery, and certainly his appreciation of the size and what this department and what this industry means to not only his riding but to Nova Scotia. To keep closing remarks reasonably brief, again I want to thank the staff for their time and effort in putting forward the consultation, indulging in the budgetary process and ensuring that we have the type of information that hopefully was helpful to other MLAs in this process of Supply.
The fishing industry in Nova Scotia is an industry that has been here for hundreds of years, will be a mainstay of coastal communities and the economy of Nova Scotia for hundreds of years to come. Nova Scotians receive very good value for taxpayers' dollars invested in this industry. With it being the leading export product of this province, in excess of $1 billion, and a budget slightly under $6 million, there is probably no stronger investment or better return on investment of government dollars than the fishing industry here in the Province of Nova Scotia. When we look at the thousands of people who are employed directly and indirectly, who are employed in coastal communities, where it is harder, in many cases, to generate jobs or create the climate for job growth in the new economy, these resource-based sector jobs are absolutely vital and essential to families and community life in Nova Scotia.
As we proceed into the future, we see opportunities as long as the fishery is properly managed, as long as there is one management plan, as long as there is the type of enforcement that applies to all individuals, and there is one set of rules for everyone. There is no reason not to anticipate that this industry will continue to be stable. Certainly, some species will offer increased growth and economic opportunity.
With aquaculture, therein lies a huge opportunity for increased economic opportunity for this province. I think it is important to note that with other provinces, such as our neighbours, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, virtually all aquaculture spots are now occupied, there is opportunity in many areas around this province for the industry to grow and develop. I will harken that it would be the desire that it grow and develop in harmony with the local communities and in partnership with them. Aquaculture sites will be developed by local entrepreneurs, but it will also be developed by entrepreneurs who are not traditionally from the community. We wish to see that developed in a style that is appreciated by the communities, operated in a respectful, proper manner with due diligence and respect to fish
husbandry, as well as integration and proper environmental concerns and concerns of the community at large addressed in that growth.
Also we intend to endeavour to ensure that other growth areas in the coastal communities and fisheries, such as the boat-building industry will be afforded the opportunity to grow and allow many more Nova Scotians a fine job and an opportunity at a lifestyle they wish to continue with. As well, value-added and extra processing around fish and fish products will continue to be another avenue that we will strongly monitor and watch and, where it is economically possible, encourage those types of employment opportunities for Nova Scotians in rural and coastal communities.
At this point, I would like to close the debate on Supply on the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and thank you, Mr. Chairman, the staff and other members of the Legislative Assembly for their indulgence in this debate.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Shall Resolution E11 stand?
Resolution E11 stands.
The resolution is carried.
I would like to thank the minister. At this time, we will switch over to the Department of Business and Consumer Services, Resolution E2. We will take a quick five minute break to allow the time for adjustments.
[5:19 p.m. The subcommittee recessed.]
[5:29 p.m. The subcommittee reconvened.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.
HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Chairman, would you please call Resolution E2.
Resolution E2. Resolved, that a sum not exceeding $31,201,000 be granted to the Lieutenant Governor to defray expenses in respect of the Department of Business and Consumer Services, pursuant to the Estimate.
MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to invite the honourable minister to give his opening comments and also introduce his staff to the committee.
HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure to be here with the estimates of the Department of Business and Consumer Services. I have two of our department officials here today, the Deputy Minister of Business and Consumer Services, Marilyn Gaudet, and Louis deMontbrun, the Director of the Corporate Services Unit.
The Department of Business and Consumer Services was created about four years ago. It brought together nine organizations from seven different departments and accounts for about 90 per cent of the transactions between Nova Scotians and their government. It includes the Registry of Motor Vehicles transactions, residential tenancy services, consumer protection, tax administration, regulation of financial institutions, and vehicle and driver compliance programs just to name a few. The idea at the time was to bring these groups together under the umbrella of one department to improve customer service throughout Nova Scotia.
Today, the Department of Business and Consumer Services successfully manages more than 2 million customer contacts per year. We have established customer service levels objectives based on customer expectations, industry benchmarks, and affordability. Obviously, the Department of Business and Consumer Services has done some good work in this area. We intend to build on this success, and our budget reflects that. Today's sophisticated consumers expect and deserve quality and service delivery. We have thought about how we deliver services to Nova Scotians. In a nutshell, we have found ways to improve that service in the way we look, who we partner with and where we want to be into the future. Because Nova Scotia is a leader in the information technology sector, it only makes sense that the government maximizes the opportunities before us. Electronic service delivery presents some very exciting options to provide service to the citizens and the businesses of Nova Scotia.
Our department, along with Revenue Canada and the Workers' Compensation Board is building on the Nova Scotia Business Registry, a virtual business access centre if you will. Businesses will be able to register simultaneously with both the provincial and the federal government without ever having to visit an office. They will have the opportunity to do this over the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Nova Scotia Business Registry will offer improved access to government services, making the province a better, more inviting place to do business. We will create an infrastructure for growth, ideal for high volume transactions across government. By reducing the time spent dealing with government, we are allowing Nova Scotia business owners more time in resources to do what they do best, and that is to run their own businesses. In short, we are making government easy to deal with, and we will continue to make changes within the department in order to deliver true, one-stop shopping for government services to Nova Scotians, when and where it is convenient for them, not for us.
The Department of Business and Consumer Services also creates a stable environment through our direct dealings with businesses through laws and regulations that are aimed at safeguarding the public interest. To this end, the Department of Business and Consumer Services administers more than 40 pieces of legislation. Staff work closely with Revenue Canada to minimize the ill effects of the underground economy. Our Motor Vehicles Compliance staff work with the trucking industry to ensure our roads and our highways are safe for everyone. As a result of these efforts, Nova Scotia has consistently earned a top rating in road and truck safety.
Our department's mandate to develop quality, cost-effective services for consumers and businesses in the province has not changed. The way we do business, however, will likely change as we look at making electronic service delivery available for a wider number of government programs and services. Our department has maintained its commitment to service delivery, customer protection, road safety, and revenue collection. We will be leaner, more focused, and as a government services provider, we will continue to offer cost-effective quality services in Nova Scotia. It is our intent that with the creation of a new Service Nova Scotia and municipal relations department that we will build on the good work the Department of Business and Consumer Services and the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs have already accomplished.
Mr. Chairman, this is a brief summary of what we are doing at Business and Consumer Services, but it is by no means an exhaustive account. With those few short comments, I would open to the committee for any questions they may have regarding the department.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Just to advise members of the committee, we anticipate adjournment at 6:42 p.m. to get our four hours in today. The time is now 5:32 p.m. We will begin with the Liberal caucus.
The honourable member for Richmond.
MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, minister, for those brief remarks. We would certainly appreciate a copy of your opening remarks if that would be possible. If that could be provided to us, we would appreciate that.
MR. LEBLANC: No problem.
MR. SAMSON: I am going to get right into the actual budget figures, Mr. Minister. On your Net Program Expenses, the estimate you have in total from your forecast last year, there appears to be a significant change there. If one looks at the bottom line, you have gone from $33.135 million to $31.201 million. Could you indicate what the difference is there?
MR. LEBLANC: There are about six major items, and I will give them one at a time. Decrease in salaries and associated travel costs of $1.7 million. We had an additional operational savings of $3.76 million which is mostly related to the NSBR component.
MR. SAMSON: What is the NSBR?
MR. LEBLANC: NSBR is the Nova Scotia Business Registry that was developed over the last two years. Those are pretty well the actual number of years. We also have a decrease in the recovery that we have in regard to that because when we were developing it, the Workers' Compensation Board was also paying us cost recovery on that.
Let me give you all the numbers. I have given you the first two. There was a decrease in recoveries of $3.305 million. There is an increase in funding for the mobile trunk radio system that comes out of this department for $98,000, and there is another aspect that comes into here, which is the Tangible Capital Assets provision, additional costs to this department of $1.227 million. One last component which is the completion of the Y2K project which was for $1,090,000 which, of course, is not being repeated this year. The total of that decrease comes to $1.934 million. If I have given them too fast, I can give them to you again if there are any components you don't have.
MR. SAMSON: Well, we are going to have to go through them again, but the Tangible Capital Assets, without getting into too many specifics, what in layman's terms does that represent?
MR. LEBLANC: This would be the amortization both for the Nova Scotia Business Registry and also for the Registry of Motor Vehicles compliance section that has been developed. When you get into the Tangible Capital Assets, in the past, the amount of capital investment we are having in our department, we were showing expenditures both for expenses plus the capital part of it. We are now into a new accounting mode, whereby we are showing the assets we have being amortized over the useful life, so the differential between the two brings up this number of $1.227 million. Most departments, if you look through the Estimates Book, in regard to the change over to a TCA process, really had very little changes. There are only two or three departments where there is any change. This happens to be one of them that has a significant number.
MR. SAMSON: I guess, starting off getting some information, could you give us some more information on the Nova Scotia Business Registry and why there is a $3.76 million savings from that? What exactly is the business registry and what has happened to it that it is now saving $3.76 million?
MR. LEBLANC: What happens here is that last year we were in the development stage for the Nova Scotia Business Registry. It is coming onstream now. So what is happening here is that basically that expenditure is not being continued, and as such there is
a reduction in that amount of expense. To put it in perspective, though, a lot of that was being recovered. Our recoveries are down considerably this year, almost to the same amount as the savings that I mentioned of $3.76 million. The reason I say that is that the major thrust of the development was in the area of putting the workers' compensation payment on the system, whereby companies can make monthly payroll payments of their workers' compensation assessments. Of course, in the past, what people had to do was estimate their workers' compensation for the year, make a lump payment, and many small businesses were saying this is not discriminatory, but it is very difficult for business, because if they have a limited cash flow, they have pay upfront. This way, we are allowing them to get an estimate every month and pay it. So there were a lot of development costs to do that, so most of that development cost that took place was being charged back to Workers' Compensation.
MR. SAMSON: So am I to assume that the Business Registry, last year compared to this year, in the last year there was $3.76 million spent on developing this Business Registry?
MR. LEBLANC: The number was actually higher than that to be candid. I can try to get those numbers. Do you want to know how much we spent on that Business Registry last year?
MR. SAMSON: Yes, a ballpark figure. And what was it spent on? This figure is high, so I am assuming that is on software and new technology. I am assuming it is not in salary.
MR. LEBLANC: Most of this would actually be in salaries and the development cost of the Nova Scotia Business Registry. This is an on-line system we are developing that will be able to allow people to interact directly with government. So the development costs of this is extremely expensive.
MR. SAMSON: But who did it? I take it it is not civil servants that made $3.76 million last year in this department.
MR. LEBLANC: It is a combination of both Unisys Canada Inc., which is the company who won the contract or the tender with government some time ago, about two or three years ago, and some civil servants. So it is a combination of both, people who do work for the government and the contract that was with Unisys.
MR. SAMSON: Well, if it was done by civil servants, I am assuming they are not represented in that $3.76 million, because where would the savings be unless you have cut those civil servants who were working on this project.
MR. LEBLANC: The project hasn't stopped. We are still putting it in place. Obviously this is one of the areas that we want to further develop. There is the potential here for savings and for improvements in the delivery of government services throughout Nova Scotia as we expand this site, because we feel, as it becomes more interactive, we will be able
to deliver more and more services. The potential is to deliver more and more services from many other departments other than the Department of Business and Consumer Services.
MR. SAMSON: Of the civil servants who were working on this project, have there been any lay-offs or cuts as a result of this budget in that division?
MR. LEBLANC: The answer to that would be no. A lot of those people who are working on that are on contract. There are some civil servants working on that. You are asking me a specific question, and I will get the answer to you. But my staff are telling me that none of those people are targetted.
MR. SAMSON: Okay, you said $1.7 million as part of the savings here. You also indicate $1.7 million decrease in salary and travel. What does that represent?
MR. LEBLANC: That represents 54.6 FTEs that are being reduced.
MR. SAMSON: So that is 54 full-time positions.
MR. LEBLANC: Full-time equivalents, yes.
MR. SAMSON: Is that representative of the entire department or are there specific areas? Is that one specific area or a couple of specific areas? I guess, not wanting to get too nit-picky, but can you give the breakdown of where those 54 positions are going to be cut from.
MR. LEBLANC: Okay. There are five different sectors. Three of them from estimate to estimate would be within senior management, and 7.8 would be within the Corporate Services Unit.
MR. SAMSON: Okay you are breaking them down. So three people, senior management.
MR. LEBLANC: Yes, 7.8 within the Corporate Services Unit; Service Delivery and Operations would be 9; Revenue, Compliance and Registry Services would be 29.8; and Policy and Business Development would be 5. That will total 54.6.
MR. SAMSON: Have those people been informed of the elimination of their positions?
MR. LEBLANC: Individually, the answer is probably no. But every section has been advised of the changes that are coming within their sections, so they know of these numbers.
MR. SAMSON: So employees in Revenue, Compliance and Registry Services would be aware there are 29.8 people being cut.
MR. LEBLANC: Yes. And in that section, you have 15.5 positions which are revolving the PST wind-up. These are people who were kept on by the province when we got out of the provincial sales tax and joined the GST. First of all it was the GST, then we went on to the HST. As such, they were kept on for some period of time to do the audits and so forth. This has been going on for some period of time. They were scheduled to be terminated in this year. So that portion of that change was expected. That has been there for a long period of time.
MR. SAMSON: When do you intend to tell these individual employees of these changes?
MR. LEBLANC: Subsequent to the budget passing and following the collective agreement, we will be informing our staff. Most of these are very specific, are relatively specific, and we will go through that process.
MR. SAMSON: Are these specific positions being eliminated, or are these individuals being eliminated? In other words, if this is a clerk position . . .
MR. LEBLANC: Positions.
MR. SAMSON: The positions themselves are being eliminated?
MR. LEBLANC: That's right.
MR. SAMSON: The three positions in senior management, is that in the minister's office?
MR. LEBLANC: That would be a position of an EA that was being funded that is not being filled. We have eliminated that position. We have one secretarial position being eliminated and one internal auditor.
MR. SAMSON: So there are no managers or anything? It is under the term senior management, but really none of these people are what I would consider to be managers themselves. So there are no cuts to management, people who are termed to be managers or directors of any of the divisions?
MR. LEBLANC: I am sure you realize that in senior management that is the deputy minister and the minister's offices, so basically, these are three positions that were there that are no longer being funded.
MR. SAMSON: Are there any managers or directors of the Department of Business and Consumer Services, are any of those positions being eliminated?
MR. LEBLANC: You mean on the top flow?
MR. SAMSON: Yes.
MR. LEBLANC: Just one second. First of all, I have indicated before that subsequent to the budget and further collective agreements, we are going to have discussions with staff. I mentioned three specific positions - and I have also mentioned the ones within the PST because the employees knew it was coming. I want to make sure, to be fair to the committee, Mr. Chairman, I am not saying something here that the employees have not been informed of through fault of the process. The first three I gave you, I know I have no EA, and that is not a surprise. I also know that the secretarial position, that was a transfer competition, and one of the secretaries was successful. We didn't refill the position. We kept it open, knowing the budgetary process was going on.
You were asking me which specific positions are there. There are some management positions of these numbers that are included in these calculations. I am trying to be fair to the member, but I am also trying to be cautious that I don't pre-empt the fact that the budget passes and that we also go through the notification. I will try as much as I can to give as much information to the member if he could take that into consideration also.
MR. SAMSON: I guess in a sense I appreciate that. I certainly hope, if this budget does get through, the government will not drag its feet and leave these people hanging as to who survives it and who does not under this, but basically my questioning is, to put it bluntly I guess, of these, other than those three positions we have discussed, of the remaining positions, are these front-line service-type people who are in your $20,000 to $30,000 range, or are there any what we would call management or director type positions which are included in this? I don't expect the minister to tell me the specific ones, but I think generally the question is, are these the people on the lower scale or are there also some changes being made higher up? One of the main complaints in BCS, I know when I worked there as a summer student, was that basically with all the changes, people were just being bumped up to higher paying jobs and just given a new title, and there was a lot of frustration for the people who were the front-line workers.
MR. LEBLANC: Was that during the Liberal Administration or when was that?
MR. SAMSON: I was not in the administration . . .
MR. LEBLANC: No, no, I mean when you were a student, was that during the previous administration?
MR. SAMSON: It would be during the previous administration, but my understanding is that not much has changed other than with this budget. So that is why I am curious as to whether there has been any manager or director positions eliminated as part of these cuts.
MR. LEBLANC: I will emphasize that out of the positions that are there, there are eight MCP positions. I think that gives you an indication of the level of positions.
MR. SAMSON: Service Delivery, you said there are nine positions being cut there. What division is that?
MR. LEBLANC: I am using some caution because I don't want to get into a situation that we - I am going to speak about the bookstore because we made the announcement in our budget, that part of it. Also within this there are many different aspects of it, one of which, of course, is RMV. We also have Vital Statistics. Those are two other components that are into it. Residential Tenancies; there are a multitude of different services that are there. The bookstore closure is four positions and that is something that has been announced and I will speak of in front of the committee here. I think I can do so because that disclosure has already been made in the budget. The other ones will be throughout the other services we have.
MR. SAMSON: So you have the bookstore, you have Residential Tenancies, which other?
MR. LEBLANC: We have the Registry of Motor Vehicles which is a fairly sizeable organization and we also have Vital Statistics. Those are other services that we provide to that section.
MR. SAMSON: So at this point you are only prepared to say that four of those nine are at the bookstore. The rest, you are not prepared to say what divisions they are in?
MR. LEBLANC: I would rather not at this time, using the same rationale that I have used before.
MR. SAMSON: I guess we will take that for the moment, but still having worked in these, while they are under Service Delivery, they are separate entities and I am sure being told that there are five positions for those employees, I am sure that they would prefer knowing whether it is in Residential Tenancies, RMV or Vital Statistics, but for the time being I will move to another one.
In Revenue, Compliance and Registry Services, 29.8 positions. You said RMV falls under Service Delivery. So I am curious, what exactly does that entail?
MR. LEBLANC: This is a sizeable division of our department. This section is responsible for leading the development and integration of the revenue collection, the motor
vehicle compliance and the registry functions for the department. It involves the Provincial Tax Commission, the Financial Institutions, the Registry of Joint Stock Companies, the Registry of Motor Vehicles compliance section and also the Nova Scotia Business Registry.
MR. SAMSON: Of 29.8 positions, are you prepared to give a more detailed breakdown of where exactly those positions are going to be cut, because they are quite large departments in themselves?
MR. LEBLANC: In this one, we have already mentioned that 15.5 positions of those are the PST wind-up, which is the last year, and that, as I noted before, was expected by the employees because this was the last year they were to be in operation. The reason for that is because they were being kept on to continue to do audits for people to ensure they were paying their taxes, and of course as time goes on, they are doing more and more of these audits. Some of them are being done internally within the province. Some of them are being done externally, and of course it was always anticipated that after awhile there would be a point of diminishing return and that is what we are approaching now.
MR. SAMSON: So that leaves 14.8 positions. The other one I will mention is in compliance. That is motor vehicle compliance?
MR. LEBLANC: Yes. The inspection side of it, the employees have been told there will be a reduction of five in that section and that section will be focusing on spot checks rather than - we are changing a procedure in that section. We are especially checking most of the gas stations, especially all the books to make sure everything is in order. Our focus is changing more towards periodic spot checks, which we think will be just as effective and we can do that with fewer personnel and that is one of the sections. Of the 29.8, I basically told you about 20.5 positions. The other ones are a variety of small changes, but they are spread out and I would rather make sure they are notified before I disclose them.
MR. SAMSON: I am curious, you indicated earlier, a concern about breaking down the jobs and where they would be at and that people had not been told specifically. In fact, I have been told by quite a reliable source, and you seem to have already alluded to it in your remarks, that the five people reduced in the inspection division have already been told. So why were they told they are laid off, yet the other employees are left dangling to wonder who is on the hit list? I am just curious. There does not seem to be continuity here. I am glad you told me about the five positions in inspection because I could have told you . . .
MR. LEBLANC: You were going to tell me, weren't you?
MR. SAMSON: I was going to tell you them anyway. I know, in fact, as of - I can get the specific date - I believe as early as Wednesday of last week these employees were told they were terminated. I am curious why they were told and everyone else is left dangling?
MR. LEBLANC: First of all, in regard to the compliance section, the employees personally have not been told. They have been told there will be reductions in that division so, as such, individuals do not know who will be affected, and that is something, obviously, through the contractual arrangements that we have that will have to phase itself out. We realize for these people, no matter how you look at it, there is a human face to it, we are looking to reduce our costs, and I don't belittle the fact of what you are saying. As quickly as possible we are going to be trying to move this thing through. We have made a very conscious effort within the department to not fill vacancies during the year until such time as the budget was finalized. We felt that would be the better way to do it. I guess, in a sense, for us to go out and hire someone, whether or not they be casual or full time, to make decisions subsequently which may have a negative impact on them, I think that was not the direction that we wanted to move forward on.
MR. SAMSON: How many people are left in motor vehicle compliance with the elimination of these five positions?
MR. LEBLANC: I will get that information for you. It will not take that long.
MR. SAMSON: You don't have that number readily available?
MR. LEBLANC: I can get it. Go on to the next question.
MR. SAMSON: I will wait for the answer because that will lead into something else if it is exactly what I expect it to be. Well, I guess for further clarification, motor vehicle compliance was basically your officers who travelled in what we call the weigh cars, who made the spot roadside checks with weight and at the same time, as you indicated, went to the gas stations and the inspection stations and checked to make sure everything was on the up and up. Is that an accurate or a fair description of what they did?
MR. LEBLANC: Let me get that number for you and I will go on to that question. On this one here, where we have general numbers here, I want to know the specifics because we are talking about some information on both those things. I will mark them both down and I will make sure I get them. My staff here, I would have thought they would have got that number right off the bat, the way it is combined here, so I am trying to make sure I have that.
MR. SAMSON: So you don't have it right now?
MR. LEBLANC: What it is here, they are grouped together. We are going to try to get the information specifically on that one there. We will make a note of it. Let me just make sure we have the request for information. You want to know how many will be left after the five are removed?
MR. SAMSON: Yes, and I mean the inspectors themselves. I am not talking secretaries or anything else.
MR. LEBLANC: That is right.
MR. SAMSON: I want to know, the inspectors who are on the beat, I guess, if we can use that term, how many are there left? You have cut five. From my previous understanding there was not that many to start off with and you have cut five. So without prejudging what you are going to come back with, I don't think I need more than my two hands, in fact, maybe just one hand will do for what is remaining. Anyway, I guess we will wait and see what number you report back.
MR. LEBLANC: The deputy believes it would be about seven left after the five. These are for the motor vehicle inspection part of it, not the weighers and so forth. I want to make sure. We will check that number. Right now keep that number in mind and we will make sure I verify it. I want to make sure if I give you a number it is correct.
MR. SAMSON: So these are seven, in the cars going out and doing the inspections?
MR. LEBLANC: These are the inspections for the motor vehicle inspection side of it, not the weighing side of it.
MR. SAMSON: I am not talking about the scale house here. So you are saying these guys who are inspecting, are not doing the weighing also?
MR. LEBLANC: That is right. This is the Motor Vehicle Inspection compliance unit.
MR. SAMSON: Have there been any cuts in the weighers?
MR. LEBLANC: The problem on this one here, I want to make sure before I say something here that they have been advised of it. So I will make a note of that.
MR. SAMSON: They have or they have not?
MR. LEBLANC: I am saying I want to make sure that if there are any changes, if there are any, that they be notified. The other five have been and I am being candid with the member.
MR. SAMSON: Well, I might as well list off a few more that you are writing down. Scale houses, what is the status with them? Have there been any cuts to those? When there are these roadside inspections, is it the weighers who are doing this or are these the motor vehicle compliance inspection guys doing it or are they both doing it?
MR. LEBLANC: A lot of times when you are having the truckers do the inspections, both sides get involved in it. One will do the truck inspections, the other one will do the motor vehicle inspections, check the stickers and so forth. Our intention is to do periodic checks, spot checks, by going to the service stations and knowing that the paperwork is right, that is one thing. Knowing whether the work has actually been done and the issuance was done, the work was actually done to ensure that that vehicle was inspected, we feel could also be done more effectively by also doing road checks.
MR. SAMSON: So if someone stops a car at the road, which you are proposing, so rather than go to the stations and check the books out, stop the car at the road, see where he got it inspected, go to the station where it was inspected, check the paper out there, check who did it and figure that out and that is going to save everybody time and eliminating these positions makes a lot of sense by doing that?
MR. LEBLANC: There are two things. First of all, you can go to each service station three or four times a year to make sure the paperwork is done. That does not necessarily tell you whether or not the actual work is done. It is a leap of faith and we are hoping, of course, that everyone is conscientious when they do this work. There have been some complaints, I will be candid about it, and we have done some spot checks and people have had their licences revoked. That is what people would expect government to do if we do receive some complaints, but the impression of the department is also that roadside checks would be also a deterrent and if there are problems, also checking out, especially looking at the motor vehicle inspection certificate as to when it was issued and so forth and following up with it with also some follow-up. We feel that that can be just as effective a deterrent as to making sure that just the paperwork is done, which is really to a great extent more what we are focusing on now. So we are changing our focus to both less periodic checks of the paperwork, but more checks on the road.
MR. SAMSON: I will wait for those numbers to come back. Motor vehicle compliance, who is the director or manager of that now?
MR. LEBLANC: Paul Arsenault is the director and Greg Keefe is the executive director.
MR. SAMSON: So you have a director making $65,000 a year and an executive director making $64,000 a year just for the compliance section. How many employees fall under compliance?
MR. LEBLANC: That isn't just for compliance.
MR. SAMSON: So they are for Revenue, Compliance and Registry Services?
MR. LEBLANC: Paul Arsenault is Director for Vehicle and Driver Compliance, while Greg Keefe is Executive Director of Revenue, Compliance and Registry Services. So Paul Arsenault would report to Greg Keefe.
MR. SAMSON: Paul Arsenault reports to Greg Keefe yet he makes more money than Greg Keefe? That must make for a funny working relationship.
MR. LEBLANC: Greg Keefe was promoted last year. So when you are looking at the Supplement, you would be using numbers that were from the past that did not reflect his promotion because he competed for that job and received it.
MR. SAMSON: So I take it Greg Keefe is making more money than what is being reported in our Supplement.
MR. LEBLANC: Well, it is not being reported. What is being reported there is the job he had in the past. So there would be an increase because of the fact that he assumed a new job subsequent to that.
MR. SAMSON: So, therefore, it is natural to assume that he is making more money now in this new position than the number we are seeing here for his previous position?
MR. LEBLANC: That is correct.
MR. SAMSON: Has there been a salary increase to these management positions, that is going to take place in this year?
MR. LEBLANC: Can you be more specific?
MR. SAMSON: Basically are the managers and directors going to make more money come the end of the year?
MR. LEBLANC: Well, there are two things; one of which, of course, anyone who is an MCP would be entitled to, I think it is based on - well, a lot of that is going to determine whether or not there will be increments this year. The government has not decided that yet, but in the past that has happened. I am not saying that will occur this year.
MR. SAMSON: So that has not been decided yet?
MR. LEBLANC: It is just not a department issue, it is a government issue.
MR. SAMSON: You have five positions in Policy and Business Development. What is the nature of those positions and what staff component exactly do you have in Policy and Business Development?
MR. LEBLANC: In the estimates last year we were at 20, and we will now be at 15. It is a 25 per cent decrease in the total funded staff.
MR. SAMSON: Are these people housed at the minister's office, in the main office?
MR. LEBLANC: My office?
MR. SAMSON: No, I mean where the head office is . . .
MR. LEBLANC: Maritime Mall, the answer is yes.
MR. SAMSON: So you are going from 20 down to 15.
MR. LEBLANC: That is right.
MR. SAMSON: Are those management-type positions? Are you able to disclose the type of positions; are they secretarial, administrative or are they management level positions?
MR. LEBLANC: They would not be management.
MR. SAMSON: No management.
MR. LEBLANC: That division doesn't have a whole lot of management in it. The reductions there are probably expected.
MR. SAMSON: Just for our own benefit, could you give us an example of what exactly Policy and Business Development does?
MR. LEBLANC: They do a multitude of different management processes for the department. One of the things they do is they manage the ACOL contract for the department. They also do any legislative changes that we do, monitoring of the gas prices is another thing they do. This is basically the sector that would develop policy development for the department, anything that we are looking to move forward. It is one that we have made considerable reductions in, we have cut back five positions. It is something, obviously, for ourselves, we are trying to make more efficient.
MR. SAMSON: I know this minister has quite a bit of experience in government and is now the minister of a number of government departments, and having had the privilege of serving a position myself, 20 people in Policy and Business Development, even now, 15, correct me if I am wrong, but I can't think of any other department that has that many people working in Policy and Business Development, in that particular sector, developing policy. Can the minister explain why there is such a high amount, even with 15, working in policy, when one considers the cuts taking place to some of the other divisions?
MR. LEBLANC: We have a department of almost 600 employees. It is also in charge of doing the purchasing for the department, which is another function it does. It is also in charge of running the phones to the office, and we talked about not having a whole lot of MCP positions in here, that is another point. It also has a section which helps prepare the budget for the department. As such, it is one of the areas that is basically multi-tasked. I indicated before that BCS, when it came together, merged nine major functions which were from seven different departments. This is basically a central-core work, it does a lot of the tying together and making sure that everything runs smoothly. I think the honourable member is maybe saying that we should be cutting more in this area, well, obviously as a government, we are going to look at all the opportunities we can. We have trimmed this area this year considerably at 25 per cent.
MR. SAMSON: Could the minister indicate what the budget is for the Policy and Development Branch?
MR. LEBLANC: It is $2,516,000. That is where the amortization expenses are included. So, $1,227,000 would be the TCA, tangible capital assets. It inflates that number, just so that you are aware of that.
MR. SAMSON: How much of this figure is salary?
MR. LEBLANC: It is $802,000.
MR. SAMSON: That is what you have budgeted now, $802,000 for these 15 remaining positions?
MR. LEBLANC: I became unfocused, can you ask the question again, please?
MR. SAMSON: The $800,000 in salary, is that what you have for this year, for these remaining 15 employees, after the cuts?
MR. LEBLANC: That is correct.
MR. SAMSON: Are there any secretarial positions or anything mixed in with those 15?
MR. LEBLANC: We have approximately five.
MR. SAMSON: Did you say five?
MR. LEBLANC: Actually the secretaries, a lot of them have specific functions beyond being secretaries, either procurement - five of them would be more in a clerical function.
MR. SAMSON: At what rate are they paid?
MR. LEBLANC: I can make a note of that and get back to you. I wouldn't have that information here, as to what individuals are paid.
MR. SAMSON: Would the minister agree, five are what we would call, the proper word now, more appropriately assistants, I don't know if secretary is even an appropriate word anymore considering the work they do, so we are talking about five people at probably a maximum of $35,000 a year. That leaves 10 people making an awful lot of money. When I think of these five inspectors who have been cut and there is 29.8 cuts being made, there are no management positions in those five that you have cut, you have left 10 people making a substantial amount of money each. I am just curious, how does the minister justify, in light of the cuts taking place, that you have 10 remaining people, unfortunately I don't have a calculator with me, but I would say they are well over the $70,000 figure each.
MR. LEBLANC: I don't think so. Benefits are also being included here. When you do the calculation, you have to exclude the benefits which would bring that number down. I think you are aware of that yourself. This policy sector is bringing in people who have some expertise in different facets, and so you would expect that the people who are giving the advice that we are drawing upon, would be at a higher range of salary than there would be, perhaps, at an average in other sectors of this department, whether or not that would be the Registry of Motor Vehicles or anything else.
MR. SAMSON: The five people cut, have they been told that they are cut? No. Could the minister provide us with the listing of who the employees in the division right now are? I know you don't want to say who has been cut, but could we have the names of who the employees are in this division right now.
MR. LEBLANC: Sure, I will get that for you.
MR. SAMSON: The 20 in that division.
MR. LEBLANC: All right.
MR. SAMSON: If you give us only 15 names, deductive reasoning will give away the 5 who are cut. I am assuming you will come with a list of 20. Donna Arseneau-Estabrooks, what division does she currently work in now?
MR. LEBLANC: Service Delivery and Operations.
MR. SAMSON: Deborah Callahan?
MR. LEBLANC: My staff tell me they believe she is in driver complaince.
MR. SAMSON: That would fall under Revenue, Compliance and Registry Services?
MR. LEBLANC: Yes.
MR. SAMSON: Thelma Costello? Is she still with BCS?
MR. LEBLANC: No, she is no longer with the department.
MR. SAMSON: Do you know which department she is in?
MR. LEBLANC: She is no longer with the government. I have been informed she is on a leave of absence. So I am at a little bit of a loss with that. It is a two year leave of absence, I will get more details for you if you want.
MR. SAMSON: She is no longer with the department, so there is no position in this budget that would indicate the two year leave she is taking.
MR. LEBLANC: No, Greg Keefe replaced her, that is one of the positions he filled.
MR. SAMSON: Ramsay Duff, is he still with BCS.
MR. LEBLANC: No, Ramsay Duff is with the Department of Finance, that one I can answer very quickly because he is my ADM over at Finance.
MR. SAMSON: One of my former bosses, so I was just curious as to whether he was still in Finance or not. The bookstore, you are cutting the bookstore by four positions, one a management position, three would be other positions. How are people going to access literature from government here on in? What contingency plan do you have?
MR. LEBLANC: One of the things we are going to be doing is, and I have been doing it in some capacity that my department has, to put our publications on the website. I think if people want to access, whether or not it be annual reports or the budget or anything else, we should make that available over the Internet. People can receive it, first of all, at no cost, they can go to many CAP sites across this province if they don't own a computer and gain access to it today. If you have some previous experience with the department, we have published, over many years, many annual reports of departments that some people would consider to be relatively obscure. We have produced them, published them, distributed them to the groups that would be interested, and the other ones would be distributed through the bookstore. I am sure if you look in the hallowed halls you would find a lot of books stockpiled in a corner that probably don't have a whole lot of use anymore.
For ourselves, that is one of the areas of government where we could be a lot more efficient. In regard to some of our publications, especially annual reports for departments or Crown Corporations, I think that the Internet is the way to go.
MR. SAMSON: I don't necessarily disagree with that, Mr. Minister, but I think of the occupational health and safety regulations, any business coming into Nova Scotia must have a copy of those regulations at their work site. How do they access it now?
MR. LEBLANC: First of all, two things, one of which is that anyone can contact the department and get it from there if they want, but I am going to go back to what I said before, those publications themselves can be made available over the Internet. I am sure there will be a process developed to ensure everyone can have access to those different publications on a timely basis, not only in metro but throughout Nova Scotia. We have many different distribution centres from this department, if you want to use that, even through Access Nova Scotia.
MR. SAMSON: It is ironic, I guess, in fact, I had the opportunity to work at the bookstore. You could call me a government summer-school flunkie. It is interesting with all the user fees we see in this budget, that occupational health and safety regulations, if I am not mistaken, were about $98 or $100. I take it that whatever revenue you were getting there, you have now lost by putting everything on the website. In fact, in this case, you had big business that was paying for this and now they can get it for free on the website.
MR. LEBLANC: You are saying that you think we should be charging more for it, rather than making it available over the website?
MR. SAMSON: I am saying, who are you picking your fights with? The poor, the disabled, the students? Now in this case where business was paying, they can pick it up for free.
MR. LEBLANC: I look at it the other way, does government have to run a bookstore? I think the answer is definitely no.
MR. SAMSON: Where do people go to pick up maps that were available at the bookstore?
MR. LEBLANC: Be more specific.
MR. SAMSON: Any maps, topographical maps, maps of the province, specific maps of different communities that were there. Where do they go to pick them up now? (Interruption) The whole idea was to have government one-stop shopping. This is not one-stop shopping anymore, you have 25 stops to make. Please answer the question, I am getting
some rabbit tracks here trying to distract me. I will wait to hear your answer before reacting to these clowns over here.
MR. LEBLANC: I think that no matter what goes on, the functions that are provided there, we have to look at the situation where the bookstore is being operated downtown, that space is extremely expensive. I still say that this is a function that can be provided either through the private sector or even through the government. It isn't something that is core to government. I know from your experience you feel perhaps it is a great service, and I know the people who work there do their best. It goes back to ourselves, that the downtown core, that people coming here would be better served by having government departments in there that have to be in this area that provide it. I go back to my statement that this is not a core function of government. If we were to make more of this information available on the Internet, people could have it. I think that it can be done much more efficiently than government doing it.
MR. SAMSON: One of the other items the bookstore was quite popular for was promoting Nova Scotian writers, artists, that type of nature. Putting books out in different areas of Nova Scotia so people could drop in if they wanted to pick up something on history, government, folk stories. Where do they turn to now?
MR. LEBLANC: I think the private sector does a great job in promoting some of those same publications that you are talking about. I know some of the major stores may not look for Nova Scotia talent or authors, but there are many other stores that give access to those types of publications. I think it goes back to, is the government in competition with that? Since the bookstore was opened they have provided that service, but I think that can be well provided by the private sector.
MR. SAMSON: Has the Department of BCS signed any contracts with any private bookstore, book dealer to handle any of this?
MR. LEBLANC: No.
MR. SAMSON: Could you indicate to this House the cost of rent and salaries as compared to the revenue that was coming in to that bookstore?
MR. LEBLANC: I can get that information. We only have five minutes. When we come back, will you be doing another series of questioning?
MR. SAMSON: I don't know, that is a long ways away. I can't predict that far.
MR. LEBLANC: I am sure you can predict that far. You are very astute.
MR. SAMSON: As many of your predecessors have done and probably will do, I don't want to answer a hypothetical question, so I will avoid it. I would be very interested in seeing that. I would love to see what the numbers are, because if I recall correctly when I was there, there was a considerable amount of money being charged by that bookstore. If this is being considered as having been a drain on government, I would be curious to see the numbers. Unless that rent is really high - I remember when I worked there, boy, those invoices going out were a considerable amount of money. You said there were four positions, there was only three when I was there, I am assuming one of them is a casual position, so there was really only three full-time people. When you consider the cost of some of those publications, the occupational health and safety regulations was $100 right off the bat, and any business who needed that, they went out quite often.
I would be curious to see the revenue from the bookstore as compared to the salaries. As you indicated, obviously, the rent was considerably high. I am wondering if you could just provide me with a brief cost analysis of how much money the bookstore was costing the government, if any. I would be curious to see what those numbers are.
What is the status of having an access centre in the Strait area? I asked you that last year, so I am hoping there is some sort of movement since the last time I spoke to you about it. (Interruptions)
You don't know how many journalists and how many people have been just waiting and asking me, are you guys going to conduct the estimates in French? I said, well, unless we can get Mr. Hendsbee to quickly get some immersion lessons, we might have a problem.
MR. CHAIRMAN: No problem, monsieur, no problemo.
MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Chairman, in this fiscal year, the expansion of Access Nova Scotia will not occur this fiscal year. There will be Service Nova Scotia that is going to be put in place as we go throughout the year, and we will be planning, in our next fiscal year, to expand those services in all the counties throughout Nova Scotia. Some of them may be only in certain aspects of their delivery systems, others will be more extensive. I will tell the honourable member that the Strait area is one we will keep in mind to move as quickly as possible.
MR. SAMSON: I know time is running out, but I take it that Service Nova Scotia is very similar to Service Canada, in that Service Canada is the partnership through Human Resource Development Canada, Industry Canada, to put government services on the web, so now almost all the CAP sites, at least in the Strait area, have access to all federal government services. I know it was indicated, talking to the provincial government, it is looking at doing the same thing. What I am curious about is, are all access centres on hold? Why build access centres when we can just put everything on the web and have it in these CAP sites, so those
communities who didn't get an access centre yet will not get one now because of this and I am just curious if that is the case?
MR. LEBLANC: No, I think you are getting ahead of yourself there. They have used different types of access, kiosks. The federal government has moved very much towards this sort of kiosk system that we have. I think it is important that what we do is that people have access to their government. We are making changes throughout Nova Scotia, but I think at the same time we have to recognize that people want contact with their provincial government and that we should have somewhere within those counties a point where they can access those services.
The Nova Scotia Business Registry is one that I think will really expand the number of services that are available, but I think we also have to realize that electronic means is not the only means that people want to access those services and so that in itself does not answer all the questions and I don't think it goes far enough. So I think it is a combination of both to be candid about it.
MR. SAMSON: Just a quick snapper. You did not build any access centres last year either?
MR. LEBLANC: No.
MR. SAMSON: So for two years now there has been no movement.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Honourable member, your time has expired. It is now time for questions from the NDP caucus.
The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, you have 10 minutes until we recess for this evening.
MR. HOLM: Just a few questions, if I may, because there is no way that I can get through what I want in 10 minutes. I just want to go back to your funded staff positions first. You talked about the number of positions that are being eliminated in the various divisions. You are talking about reductions from what was estimated rather than what was forecast because when you say in senior management, for example, that there are three positions, in reality it is 1.5 from what was forecast to have been the number of positions last year?
MR. LEBLANC: That is correct and I think, if I could just point out on that, I think a lot of time people, governments or departments sometimes have had funded staff, but have not filled them which has also allowed them the latitude of having funds within their budgets to have discretion, or whatever, and I want to make sure that when we look at this, we
pointed out the positions that we will fill, but you are absolutely correct. We are talking a reduction of 54.6 positions estimate to estimate. The actual number that we experienced last year, or the equivalent, was 594. That number is down because there were some vacancies and some of them we kept vacant because, as I indicated before to the previous questioner, why would we fill positions until we do the review. It would be much more logical and be less painful and, hopefully, we can have less effect on the staff.
MR. HOLM: Okay, that having been said, I appreciate those comments. Under Corporate Services the actual number of reductions is not going to be 7.8. The actual number of reductions is going to be 13.9 from what is forecast which is almost double the number that you stated. Under Service Delivery there were forecast to be 291 and you are now saying there are going to be 303.6. So you are actually talking about an increase in staffing levels next year for Service Delivery and Operations. So my first question is, where in Service Delivery are those extra 12.3 people going to be slotted? It is not a reduction of nine, it is going up.
MR. LEBLANC: There were a lot of vacancies in this section, this is one during the year that was there. This is the front-line delivery. So we are into a situation, now we are getting here, whether it is Access Nova Scotia or Registry of Motor Vehicles, or Vital Statistics, Public Inquiries, those positions are positions during the year where there were a considerable number of vacancies. They are what we consider to be the front-line workers and we have filled those positions or we are in the process of doing that.
MR. HOLM: Okay, I understand where you are coming from in that and that is a good answer. Could you provide me, let's say for Thursday morning, a listing of the positions that are or are going to be filled to bring that up to the 303 from the 291 that is shown as forecast?
MR. LEBLANC: I think it is already higher than the 291; 291 was experienced throughout the year. If you look at now, and I will get the staff to . . .
MR. HOLM: Maybe you could just check that and find out what it is at now.
MR. LEBLANC: I think right now we have higher numbers than the 291, but I will check that and I will report.
MR. HOLM: And under Revenue, Compliance and Registry Services you said there were 29.8 and it is showing that the average at the end of the year was 186.5. It is going down to 174.6 so, in other words, a drop of about 12?
MR. LEBLANC: It would be approximately 12. Now, this is the section that we have the provincial sales tax . . .
MR. HOLM: Yes, I remember the argument in discussions before and under the Policy and Business Development it is actually staying about the same from what was forecast last year because last year it was 14.9 and now it is only 15.
MR. LEBLANC: That is correct.
MR. HOLM: So, in essence, there is no change.
MR. LEBLANC: A lot of the change has already taken place, that is right.
MR. HOLM: So, in other words, there are not going to be lay-off notices in those areas?
MR. LEBLANC: That is correct. When you are talking about the numbers reduction of 54.6, a lot of these positions are vacant now so the impact will not be as great.
MR. HOLM: So the question then is the logical one, you know what it is, of the 54.4, whatever, full-time equivalents, those full-time equivalents are people, they are individuals, like you and me, how many actual lay-offs are going to be within your department?
MR. LEBLANC: I will get that information at the same time. You are asking basically, not to be derogatory, you are asking how many warm bodies basically . . .
MR. HOLM: I want to know how many more bodies are going to get pink slips and I think . . .
MR. LEBLANC: Yes, and the number will be less than the 54.6.
MR. HOLM: I would anticipate it would be given the numbers that are there.
MR. LEBLANC: That is correct.
MR. HOLM: We have very little time left so I am just going to start on a couple of other things. First of all, within government we heard over and over again that there are 1,226, I think, different services that are delivered if that is the accurate number.
MR. LEBLANC: The number is there. Some of them would be, whether they be services or commissions or vacancies.
MR. HOLM: Whatever.
MR. LEBLANC: Yes.
MR. HOLM: How many of those are within the purview of Business and Consumer Services?
MR. LEBLANC: There are two criteria. What we looked at here, we deal with 32 programs. The list that was compiled through the internal review process may have more than that so we will have to ask them as to what the number is.
MR. HOLM: As minister, and a pretty important minister in terms of the pecking order of government, I think that you would know how many different items under your various ministries have been reviewed.
MR. LEBLANC: I would like to say that I remember the number, but the answer is no. I will find out that answer. You are asking me out of Business and Consumer Services, out of 1,200, you are saying 1,226, I am not sure that is the number, how many of those pertain to . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: He said 1,126.
MR. LEBLANC: I believe it is 32, but I will confirm that.
MR. HOLM: The next question is, how many programs or services, those things that were reviewed by the Internal Review Commission, how many are being eliminated? That you should know. You don't know that off the top of your head?
MR. LEBLANC: Three.
MR. HOLM: Three, and those three are, besides the bookstore?
MR. LEBLANC: The bookstore is one. I will get the other two, PST wind-up which is the other one we are into and there was another position that we are dealing with, the HST which was in regard to Revenue Canada. Those are the three that were eliminated.
MR. HOLM: How many are being modified?
MR. LEBLANC: That list is much longer. I don't have that number in front of me, but I will get that.
MR. HOLM: Will you be able to provide that to me on Thursday and tell me how they are being modified and which ones?
MR. LEBLANC: Well, the list will be long, but we will try to do as much as we can for that one, Mr. Chairman.
MR. HOLM: I think that that is extremely important.
MR. LEBLANC: I think before I go beyond that, Mr. Chairman, I indicated on the day of the budget that by far most of these have been modified rather than eliminated. That day I was asked a question as to how many were eliminated and I said at that time that my expectations before we started that review were that there would be more that we would eliminate. The experience is that when you looked at it, most of them were either modified in some way or reduced, where we felt they could deliver the service in a more efficient way or at less levels and still do the job. I am not trying to take the member's time, but I think it is important that I say that.
MR. HOLM: I appreciate that, but the Premier said I think that 70 programs were being eliminated on Budget Day and 300 have been modified. So I am trying to find out which ones are being eliminated. We are told to be ferrets and I know that the minister will be frank and forthright . . .
MR. LEBLANC: You are a very nice ferret, I want to tell you that.
MR. HOLM: . . . with the information. So, therefore, I am anticipating that we will find out on Thursday which ones are being modified and how they are being modified. There is a whole area of revenue which we will deal with on Thursday.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Excuse me, gentlemen. The time allotted for debate in Subcommittee on Supply has now expired.
The committee stands adjourned.
[6:44 p.m. The subcommittee rose.]